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McTeague seeks to pull an upset in 5th District primary

Dave McTeague has raised little money, but he is counting on riding a big surge of Democratic support for Bernie Sanders in Oregon to unseat 5th District Rep. Kurt Schrader in the May 17 primary.

The most recent time that happened in Oregon, Sanders was not yet mayor of Burlington, Vt. — let alone a U.S. senator seeking the presidential nomination — party front-runner Hillary Clinton was the wife of the governor of Arkansas, and a 31-year-old Ron Wyden unseated Democrat Bob Duncan in the 3rd District seat in 1980.

McTeague has raised just $31,620 for this election cycle, according to latest reports from the Federal Election Commission, and spent all but $1,000. Schrader has raised $1.2 million, spent a little more than $500,000, and still has $1.5 million cash on hand.

“We raised enough money to communicate district-wide with Democrats,” said McTeague, who had a left-of-center approach when he was a state representative from Milwaukie from 1985 to 1995. “That mailer links my campaign with the issues raised by Sen. Sanders. There is going to be a strong vote for Sen. Sanders and I am supportive of his program.

“Congressman Schrader is disconnected from the Democratic grassroots. There is tremendous concern across the district with his voting record — and the word gets around.”

But Schrader, a centrist state senator from Canby until his election to the U.S. House in 2008, said the 5th is one of a relative handful of the 435 districts that are almost evenly divided between registered Democrats and Republicans.

“So I can’t be crazy,” he said. “I have to listen to everybody.”

None of the major national political rating services — Cook Political Report, Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball — lists any change for Oregon’s five U.S. House seats this cycle.

The 5th takes in a sliver of Multnomah County, most of Clackamas County, and extends into the Mid-Willamette Valley and the central coast. Of its two most populous counties, Clackamas County voters account for 41 percent of the district’s registered voters, and Marion County, 36 percent.

Democrats have had a slight edge in registration since Oregon’s 2008 primary contest between Clinton, then a senator from New York, and Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who went on to the presidency. Before then Republicans outnumbered Democrats, including the 12 years that Democrat Darlene Hooley of West Linn held the seat.

But the 5th is less Democratic than the other Portland area seats in the 1st and 3rd districts. As of March registration figures, Democrats account for 37 percent, Republicans 33 percent of registered voters.

Since his initial election in 2008, Schrader, now 64, has gone without a serious Democratic primary challenger. He beat Anita Brown by 5 to 1 in the 2014 primary. and had none in 2010 and 2012.

“I take it all seriously. Oregon is an interesting place with a lot of different viewpoints in both parties. Bernie Sanders has a lot of juice these days,” Schrader said.

“Secretary Clinton probably has the nomination in the bag, but it’s good to have the discussion.”

Like all of the Democrats in Oregon’s congressional delegation except for Sen. Jeff Merkley, Schrader has endorsed Clinton, who was secretary of state in Obama’s first term.

But McTeague, 63, said his issues are Sanders’ issues. Among them:

• Opposition to the 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Schrader has said favorable things about it – though it’s opposed by labor unions and supported by agricultural interests – and voted in 2015 for the fast-track authority to negotiate an agreement that Congress can only vote up or down without amendments.

• Opposition to Schrader’s support of tighter restrictions on the entry of Syrian refugees.

• Opposition to changes in Medicare and Social Security, federal entitlement programs that Schrader seeks to rework to lessen their effects on future federal budgets. Schrader opposes Republican proposals he says would harm post-World War II baby boomers heading into retirement.

In addition to an independent effort by the Working Families Party, McTeague said, he is counting on support from many involved in Sanders-for-President groups — Democratic activists who are most likely to cast ballots in Oregon’s closed primary.

Intraparty challenges are rare.

Dennis Linthicum, then a Klamath County commissioner, ran at Republican Rep. Greg Walden from the right in the 2nd District primary two years ago. But Walden easily turned back the challenge by a 3-to-1 majority.

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GOP fight

Four Republicans are slugging it out to be their party’s nominee May 17 for Oregon’s 5th District congressional seat.

Colm Willis of Stayton, a lawyer and former political director of Oregon Right to Life, leads the fundraising pack with almost $127,000 raised and $70,000 spent as of April 27, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

His campaign benefited from contributions of $5,000 each from two political action committees associated with Oregon Right to Life, the state’s largest group opposed to abortion rights.

His nearest rival was Ben West of Wilsonville, husband of Paul Rummell, and the lead couple in one of the two lawsuits that led to a federal judge overturning Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriages in 2014.

West’s own campaign raised about $47,000 and spent all but $5,000, according to FEC reports.

But there’s a twist.

West has benefited from independent expenditures totaling $180,000 from American Unity PAC, a Republican “super PAC” that supports gay rights. The committee got an infusion of $1 million in 2012 from Paul Singer, a New York hedge-fund manager and a major donor to the Republican Party. Singer’s son is gay.

West, a former mortgage banker, is moving into nursing.

Like Willis, West is campaigning on a variety of issues.

The other Republicans in the race are Seth Allan of Canby, a psychiatric technician who has raised $19,110 and spent $16,828, and Earl Rainey of Rickreall, a truck driver who has not filed any reports.

— Peter Wong


Adds outlooks from major national rating services. Adds voter registration details.