Jamie McLeod-Skinner is running against Republican Rep. Greg Walden to represent Oregon's 2nd Congressional District in Congress. (Photo courtesy of the McLeod-Skinner election campaign).
VALE – Jamie McLeod-Skinner, Democratic candidate for Congress, believes she can win.
Based on history, that may seem like a tall order.
Her opponent, Republican Rep. Greg Walden, represents the deeply conservative 2nd Congressional District. Since his election in 1998, he has easily crushed Democratic opponents in the general election.
The district is the seventh largest district in the nation and covers about two-thirds of Oregon. It includes all of Baker, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco, and Wheeler counties, plus portions of Josephine County.
Walden wields tremendous power in Washington, D.C. He is the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and has close ties to the Trump administration.
He also runs a well-oiled political machine that so far has put him ahead of McLeod-Skinner.
Federal Election Commission reports recently showed Walden has raised $3.7 million to retain his seat and has $3.2 million on hand.
In contrast, McLeod-Skinner raised $150,000 for her campaign and, after the May primary, held $32,000 in her political war chest.
The race is shaping up to be a quintessential David versus Goliath political battle but McLeod-Skinner isn’t daunted.
She believes that she can beat Walden by attacking him on several key areas.
One, she said, is Walden’s stance on the Affordable Care Act.
Last year Walden led the effort by the House to create new legislation to replace the act.
The legislation was approved by the House and pushed to the Senate, where it floundered.
McLeod-Skinner said Walden’s effort to abolish the Affordable Care Act was a mistake and would have hurt voters in his district. She said “134,000 people in his district would have been at risk of losing their health care.”
McLeod-Skinner also wants to highlight what she calls Walden’s “inability to stand up and call out his own party when it is not doing right by its constituents.”
She cited the brewing trade war with the European Union, China, Canada and Mexico over President Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on many products. A trade war could impact local agriculture producers across Walden’s district. Yet, she said Walden remains on the sidelines.
“As we speak we are losing those markets and that will be incredibly damaging. We need folks in D.C. who have the courage to stand up and speak up. If you don’t use your leadership role to the benefit of your constituents, that is problematic,” said McLeod-Skinner.
She says he isn’t as close to voters as he once was.
“You have to show up and listen. He is weak this time because before he could always point to Obama; now he’s accountable and now he is failing to lead, failing to serve his constituents,” she said.
She said she’s heard from committed Republicans who say Walden “is not the guy he used to be. He’s been there too long.”
She believes the enthusiasm of her campaign is a asset.
“We are seeing a lot of people frustrated, frustrated with the direction the country is going and an openness to seeing women in a leadership role. We have 900 volunteers,” said McLeod-Skinner.
She said she doesn’t have to win the entire district outright to unseat Walden. If she can win in a few key areas – such as Deschutes County – and then break even or come close in the rest of the district, she has a chance for an upset.
McLeod-Skinner said she is proud to be a Democrat but her outlook is more rural Oregon than inside-the-beltway. She said she doesn’t believe in big government.
“I don’t think Washington should be micro-managing. Let folks on the ground figure out how to make it work,” said McLeod-Skinner.
McLeod-Skinner said a political race shouldn’t just be about party allegiance.
“I am not trying to turn eastern Oregon blue. If you want to play with colors, well, it is not a zero-sum game,”
McLeod-Skinner is the former city manager of Phoenix in southern Oregon, and served two terms on a California city council. The Terrebonne resident has a degree in water law from the University of Oregon, and the family of her wife, Cass, has ranched in Jordan Valley for decades.
She entered the race, she said, because of her concern for Democracy.
“I think we are entering into a dangerous time where the institutions of our democracy are being undermined. People are hurting too and that is frustrating to me,” said McLeod-Skinner.