Blue Dog conservative Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader appears to be on the verge of losing his primary in Oregon to progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner after spending much of the last year voting to block much of his party’s agenda.
With about 77 percent of votes counted in Oregon’s fifth district, McLeod-Skinner has 59.3 percent of the votes, according to tallies available at the time of this reporting. Schrader is trailing behind by nearly 19 points, with 40.7 percent. The race was called for McLeod-Skinner by Cook Political’s House editor Dave Wasserman on Twitter on Tuesday morning, but has yet to be called by other sources.
The district, which encompasses suburbs south of Portland and Salem in the northwest region of the state, typically leans blue. Schrader has held his seat since 2009. The primary election was held on May 17, but the results have been delayed due to an issue with barcodes on the ballots, leading to a longer process of ballot counting.
McLeod-Skinner, a rancher and Jefferson County education board member, ran on a progressive platform supporting policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and raising the federal minimum wage. During the campaign, she continually highlighted key differences between her and Schrader, such as McLeod-Skinner’s support of stronger regulations on the pharmaceutical industry and her refusal to accept corporate PAC donations.
Indeed, if McLeod-Skinner’s win over Schrader is certified, it will be seen as a rebuke of the conservative politics that Schrader embodied during his time in office. His cozy relationship with Big Pharma’s highly funded lobbying efforts likely played a major role in his opposition to the Democrats’ plan to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
In September, Schrader was one of three Democrats who joined Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, essentially killing the proposal. Schrader, worth roughly $8 million, is the son of a pharmaceutical industry executive, and his top donors over his seven-term tenure are the pharmaceutical and health industries, according to OpenSecrets.
Schrader also played a major role in obstructing Democrats’ agenda over the past year. During last year’s debacle over the Build Back Better Act, which contained crucial provisions to address social inequities, the climate crisis, and more, Schrader allied with a group of conservative Democratic House members in obstructing the bill.
Deemed as the “Unbreakable Nine” by dark money organization No Labels, the nine Democrats urged and ultimately succeeded in getting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to separate the Build Back Better bill from the supposedly bipartisan infrastructure bill. The separation opened the door for Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to kill the Build Back Better Act entirely. The death of the bill was a major blow to Democrats, who have passed very few major bills in their time controlling Congress and the White House due in part to conservative Democrats’ obstruction.
Schrader also had to apologize in January of last year after he compared Donald Trump’s second impeachment hearing to a “lynching” — a strange and racist remark which caused his spokesperson to resign.
McLeod-Skinner has dubbed Schrader the “Joe Manchin of the House,” and he has earned so much ire of his fellow party members that local Democrats bucked the tradition of endorsing the incumbent candidate and backed McLeod-Skinner instead. The challenger has also gathered endorsements from progressive organizations like local Sunrise Movement chapters and the Working Families Party, as well as several major labor unions.
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