The race for Oregon’s sixth congressional seat is beginning to take shape as candidates line up to represent voters in the state’s newest U.S. House district.
With 364 days until the November 2022 election — and just 189 until the May party primaries — Oregon state Rep. Andrea Salinas has officially launched her campaign to join Oregon’s congressional delegation. She joins fellow state Rep. Ron Noble, a McMinnville Republican, and fellow Democrat and former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.
If the maps drawn and approved by legislators in September hold up in court, the new sixth congressional district will include all of Polk and Yamhill counties, portions of Washington and Clackamas counties, and the area of Marion County that includes Salem.
In a campaign announcement Tuesday, Salinas said that she wants to continue advocating to expand access to health care for Oregonians.
She’ll also focus on helping the nation’s economy rebound from the challenging conditions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstering education and fighting climate change.
“To put it short, I’m excited to serve and get things done for Oregonians,” Salinas said. “I feel like families are worried and they have serious financial struggles. The economy continues to be rigged against working families, and it seems like no matter how long or hard you work, it’s getting harder and harder just to make ends meet.”
Salinas is touting her track record as a lawmaker and chair of the state House committee on health care where she led efforts to increase affordability and access for Oregonians. Most recently, she worked with colleagues in the Legislature to amend the state’s constitution to declare health care as a human right — an action lawmakers, including the late Rep. Mitch Greenlick, have tried to pass for more than a decade.
The resolution will appear on the November 2022 ballot, which could hold Salinas’ name as well if she wins her party’s nomination.
“I’d like to take those similar values and similar policies and try to implement that in Washington, D.C.,” Salinas said. “COVID-19 really pulled back the curtain on health disparities that exist in our current system in a way that we can’t ignore.”
Salinas said there’s no other candidate in the race that has the amount of experience and knowledge she has. Before representing House District 38, Salinas worked as political consultant and advocate specializing in health care issues.
She was also a prominent figure in this year’s redistricting effort where she co-chaired the House committee that handled drawing the new congressional and legislative maps currently under scrutiny in Oregon court.
The process of hashing out new political lines — headlined by a broken power sharing deal in the House — saw intense moments in which Republicans and Democrats sparred and allegations of gerrymandering were made.
Salinas defended the effort, saying its conclusion was “fair and representative.”
“Legislative seats don’t belong to politicians, they belong to the constituents and the voters of that district,” she said. “The maps serve the people who live in them.”
Salinas currently lives in Lake Oswego just outside the boundary of the sixth district. She said she plans to move into the sixth district once the maps are confirmed by the courts.
She’s not the only sitting lawmaker making plans for the new congressional district. Noble, a three-term McMinnville Republican, confirmed to OPB last month he is preparing to announce a campaign for the district.
A former police chief, Noble is a moderate who worked closely with Democrats this year on a package of police reform bills. He was the sole member of his caucus to show up at the state Capitol in September, when Republicans staged a brief walkout over new congressional maps proposed by Democrats.
Noble said his record of bipartisanship can serve Oregon well in the U.S. Capitol.
“I believe a lot of the issues that I’ve been involved with at the state level… are the same issues that we have nationwide,” Noble said. “It doesn’t hurt that I’ve spent 47 years in the district.”
Loretta Smith — who announced her candidacy back in June before the new political maps were drawn — said in a statement that she’s running to “tear down the barriers to progress before us and build pathways to equal opportunity for all.”
Smith told OPB this week that she too plans to move into the district once the fate of the new political maps is certain.
She said her campaign will also focus on bolstering healthcare access, as well as advocating for “economic and climate justice.”
“Just basically trying to make sure that everyone has a fair shot,” Smith said. “We saw during COVID, underserved communities were trying to figure out how to survive. And I want to make sure that they have a voice for someone, particularly from the federal level, that will push for them to thrive.”
Other candidates who have announced for the May 2022 Republican primary include former Republican congressional candidate Amy Ryan Courser, clinical psychologist Angela Plowhead and Dundee Mayor David Russ. Candidates vying for the Democratic nomination include Intel engineer Matt West and former Portland Public Schools board member Derry Jackson.
Twenty years ago, Jackson found himself in hot water for making anti-Semitic comments, for which he later apologized after being called on to resign his school board position. He was also investigated by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for allegedly using his official position in an attempt to gain investors for a technology business we he was starting. Jackson was cleared of any wrongdoing.