Oregon GOP Congresswoman Chavez-DeRemer courts union endorsements in reelection bid

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The union that represents painters, glass workers and road stripers in five Western states announced its first round of 2024 endorsements: Oregon Democratic House Speaker Dan Rayfield in his bid for attorney general, seven other Democrats running in other states — and U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Oregon.

The endorsement and designation as a “friend of labor,” which Chavez-DeRemer heralded in a press release, comes as the first-term Republican fights to keep her seat in a district with more Democrats than Republicans. She eked out a victory over Terrebonne attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the 5th Congressional District last year and likely will face a rematch with either McLeod-Skinner or with state Rep. Janelle Bynum, a Clackamas Democrat who twice defeated her in state legislative races.

Oregon’s Congressional District 5 includes Aurora, Beavercreek, Bend, Canby, Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Molalla, Oregon City and West Linn.

Chavez-DeRemer has sought to establish herself as a moderate representative for a moderate district, touting her support for bipartisan measures in Congress and occasional breaks with Republican party leaders, including refusing to support Ohio Republican Jim Jordan in his failed bid for speaker. (She voted for eventual speaker nominee Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana.)

And as the election draws closer, Chavez-DeRemer has sought endorsements from labor unions that typically support Democratic politicians. On Tuesday, Jan. 23, she announced an endorsement from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5, a council of 13 local unions with more than 6,000 total members from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska and Utah. It follows an earlier endorsement from the Portland-based Ironworkers Local 29.

“Americans are looking for good-paying jobs that will allow them to retire with dignity, so it’s more important than ever for policymakers to create opportunities for workers,” Chavez-DeRemer said in a statement. “Supporting working families has been one of my top priorities during my first term. I’m grateful for IUPAT DC5’s support and will continue fighting to expand economic opportunity and protect workers’ rights.”

The union’s council said in a statement that it endorsed candidates who support union labor.

“Congresswoman Lori Chavez-DeRemer’s support for prevailing wage, registered apprenticeships, worker safety and the right of workers to strike have earned DC5’s endorsement, and we look forward to her continued support,” the union said.

A spokesperson for the union didn’t return a call Tuesday about the unusualness of backing a Republican candidate. But a review of its list of 2022 Oregon endorsements shows that the union endorsed 55 Oregon Democrats and just two Republicans — longtime state Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, who was running unopposed, and Lisa Davidson, who lost a Republican primary in Canby.

Chavez-DeRemer hasn’t sought an endorsement from Oregon AFL-CIO, or the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the statewide union that represents more than 300,000 Oregonians, a spokesman said. But she has been in touch with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the state’s largest private sector union with more than 30,000 members across Oregon, Idaho, southwestern Washington and Wyoming.

UFCW Local 555 has given McLeod-Skinner and Bynum its “greenlight” stamp, a non-exclusive indication that a candidate’s values align with the union’s. Mike Selvaggio, the union’s lobbyist, told the Capital Chronicle — a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group — that Chavez-DeRemer was unable to make a meeting she was invited to because of her schedule in Washington, D.C., but has expressed interest in meeting with the union.

While Oregon unions typically support Democratic candidates, Selvaggio said he wouldn’t call it “unusual” for Republicans to engage with labor unions. In fact, he wants to see more Republicans looking for support from organized labor.

“We support candidates that support our values and our membership, and to the degree that any candidate of any particular political persuasion is interested in working with us, we are interested in working with them,” Selvaggio said. “It may not be something that certain people expect, but we don’t want to call it out of the ordinary because we hope that that becomes more and more ordinary.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.


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