Oregon ratings: Schrader faces choice of two districts, both favoring Democrats

New race ratings show DeFazio a big winner in redistricting

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader’s current district was split under the state’s new House map.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader’s current district was split under the state’s new House map. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 19, 2021 at 5:00am

ANALYSIS — Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader was the first House incumbent of the cycle to see his district split in half through the redistricting process. Compared to what’s likely to happen to some of his other colleagues, however, it’s not the end of Schrader’s political career. 

Many of Oregon’s districts are changing significantly after the Beaver State gained a sixth seat through the apportionment process. Democrats, who have had a 4-1 advantage in the House delegation for more than two decades, are trying to add a fifth seat to the column. But it won’t be easy in a challenging political environment and will depend on where Schrader decides to run.

Here’s a rundown of the changes to each district, and how Inside Elections rates the races:

Oregon’s 1st (Suzanne Bonamici, D)

The new 1st District in northwest Oregon stretches from the western part of Portland out to Tillamook County along the coast. It also got significantly more Democratic; Joe Biden would have defeated President Donald Trump by 40 points, 70 percent to 30 percent, under the new lines, according to calculations by Bradley Wascher of Inside Elections. That’s more than 10 points better than Biden did in the current 1st District and means Bonamici shouldn’t have any trouble winning reelection. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Oregon’s 2nd (Cliff Bentz, R)

The state’s most Republican seat got even redder by shedding the fast-growing city of Bend to the new 6th District. Yet the newly drawn 2nd is still an expansive district that includes the rest of eastern Oregon and most of southern Oregon. It would have voted for Trump 62 percent to 38 percent. Freshman GOP Rep. Cliff Bentz, who succeeded longtime Rep. Greg Walden, will only be vulnerable in a primary, should one develop. He beat a crowd of contenders for the 2020 nomination with 31 percent. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Oregon’s 3rd (Earl Blumenauer, D)

Blumenauer, the bow tie-wearing co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, is set for a 14th full term if he wants it. Biden would have won his new district, which stretches from the eastern part of Portland east to Hood River, over Trump, 73 percent to 27 percent. Initial rating: Solid Democratic

Oregon Rep. Peter A. DeFazio gets a bluer district under the state’s new congressional map (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Oregon’s 4th (Peter A. DeFazio, D)

DeFazio is one of the biggest winners from the redistricting process. While Republicans in 2020 captured House seats around the country that Biden won narrowly, DeFazio won by 6 points in a district Biden carried over Trump by 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent. But under the new lines, Biden would have won the seat by 12 points, 56 percent to 44 percent, according to Wascher. The shape of the 4th is changing to include less of southern Oregon, but it still includes both the University of Oregon (Eugene) and Oregon State University (Corvallis). 

Afghanistan War veteran Alek Skarlatos, the 2020 GOP nominee, is running again. He had $334,000 in the bank on Sept. 30, and outraised DeFazio in the third quarter. But DeFazio had $1.3 million at the end of September along with a decidedly more Democratic district. When DeFazio decides to retire, former state representative and current Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle or state Sen. Sara Gelser would probably take a look on the Democratic side. Initial rating: Likely Democratic

Oregon’s 5th (Kurt Schrader,  D)

Speculation is that Schrader will run in the new 5th District, although no decision has been made. His current seat is divided almost evenly between the 5th and new 6th. But with $3.3 million in the bank on Sept. 30 to scare away potential challengers, the seven-term congressman has some options. Schrader currently represents fewer people in the new 5th compared to the new 6th, but the new 5th includes his home of Canby. It’s a somewhat eclectic district geographically, stretching from suburban Portland south to the mountain communities in Deschutes County, which would be brand new territory for Schrader. There could be an opening for a Bend-area candidate, but it’s not clear lawyer Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who lost to Walden in 2018 and in the Democratic primary for Oregon secretary of state in 2020, is the one to do it. She’s also laying the groundwork to run to Schrader’s left ideologically.

The redrawn 5th could be more difficult to hold for Democrats, particularly in a good Republican cycle, considering Biden would have won it by 10 points, 55 percent to 45 percent. But that’s also similar to Biden’s 10-point victory in the current 5th. 

On the Republican side, former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer could be a strong candidate. She had $194,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 and comes from Clackamas County in the Portland suburbs. Former state Rep. Cheri Helt of Bend may run and Bend-area state Sen. Tim Knopp is mentioned as well. Clackamas County Board of Commissioners Chair Tootie Smith (who lost to Schrader back in 2014) is another possibility, but she could also run in the 6th. State House Minority Leader Christine Drazan of Canby could get some recruitment calls, although she might run for governor. Amy Ryan Courser, who lost to Schrader by less than 7 points in 2020 without any national help, had $9,000 in her campaign account on Sept. 30. Initial rating: Likely Democratic.

Oregon’s 6th (Open; new)

This is technically a new seat, but it contains about half of Schrader’s current constituency, so he could choose to run here. The Willamette Valley district includes the capital city of Salem (Marion County) and extends north toward Portland with parts of Clackamas and Washington counties and west to include Polk and Yamhill counties. The new 6th also starts with a Democratic advantage, considering the district would have backed Biden over Trump 57 percent to 43 percent.

Particularly without Schrader, both sides could see competitive primaries. For Democrats, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith is running and had $78,000 in the bank on Sept. 30. But she currently doesn’t live in the district, which is not constitutionally required but can be a political headache, and could switch to the 5th. State Rep. Andrea Salinas of Lake Oswego is considering a bid. Former Monmouth Mayor and current state Rep. Paul Evans of Polk County and state Rep. Brian Clem of Salem (Marion County) will get mentioned as well, as will Republican state Rep. Ron Noble of Yamhill County, but everyone’s decision will at least be influenced by Schrader. Initial rating: Likely Democratic.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.