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Andrea Salinas leads Democrats in early returns for new Oregon congressional district

Salinas.jpg
Courtesy of Andrea Salinas

State lawmaker Andrea Salinas leads the field of candidates on Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee for Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, according to early primary returns.

Salinas led a packed field that included eight other candidates to become the first Democrat to appear on a general election ballot for the new district.

The state Legislature created the district after the 2020 census showed Oregon’s population had grown. The new House district includes all of Yamhill and Polk counties, the part of Marion County that includes Salem and Woodburn, a small piece of Beaverton, and the suburban communities to the southwest of Portland, including Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood.

The Democratic primary was marked by massive spending by outside groups, mostly on behalf of one candidate: Carrick Flynn. Flynn’s opponents — including Salinas — slammed his backers for propping up a seemingly unknown candidate with less government experience than four women, three of them people of color, running for the same office.

Super PACs spent more than $12 million in advertising and direct mail campaigning on Flynn’s behalf. The revelation that most of that money was tied to cryptocurrency entrepreneur Samuel Bankman-Fried dominated headlines throughout the race.

Salinas overcame the funding gap to win the district’s Democratic nomination.

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and helping the nation transition to cleaner sources of energy were cornerstones of Salinas’ primary campaign. Protecting access to reproductive health care also became a major issue in the race, particularly for Salinas, following the leaked draft opinion signaling the U.S. Supreme Court is on the precipice of overturning Roe v. Wade.

For the past five years, Salinas has represented Lake Oswego in the Oregon House. Her time as a lawmaker was marked by work on issues relating to health care, climate and equity. Most recently, she helped sponsor legislation in the 2022 session that provided paid overtime to Oregon farmworkers.

Salinas got her start working for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, eventually joining the staff of California Rep. Pete Stark and then Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooley. She served as legislative director of the Oregon Environmental Council before becoming a lobbyist working on environmental issues and health care.

She won the support of a long list of fellow elected leaders, party officials, labor unions and other groups in Oregon and nationally. Her list of endorsements includes Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the state’s largest labor group, Service Employees International Union.

“Thank you to every single voter, volunteer, and supporter,” Salinas said in a statement late Tuesday night. “This grassroots campaign accomplished something spectacular and of historic significance tonight, and I am so grateful. I am ready to win this seat in November and work hard to expand access to abortion care, tackle the climate crisis, and lower the cost of prescription drugs. I am running to represent working families and fight for a better future for all Oregonians.”

In the Republican primary, Mike Erickson is leading six other candidates to become the party’s nominee, according to early returns.

Erickson, a businessman from Lake Oswego who specializes in shipping and transportation, said Tuesday night he was looking forward to keeping “the gas pedal down” on his campaign.

He said he would “really keep my message about getting inflation under control ... and about being a businessman who is concerned where this country is headed,” Erickson said.

Erickson previously ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Oregon’s former 5th District in 2006 against Darlene Hooley and in 2008 against now-U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader.

Erickson has said he believes his experience in logistics and supply chain issues would lend a needed voice to Congress when transportation costs are being passed on to consumers and taking more of their income.

Looking toward November and a clash with Salinas, Erickson told OPB he felt his concerns about inflation and the nation’s economy would sway voters, as well as his professional background.

“I’m tired of where this country is headed. I jumped into this race to make a difference and bring a business perspective,” Erickson said. “I think voters, the Democrats, the Independents and Republicans like that. They want some business common sense back there.”

Erickson was followed in early results by current Republican state Rep. Ron Noble. Both men expressed caution Tuesday night as they awaited more results from Clackamas County.

Noble has represented the McMinnville area for three terms in Salem, dating back to 2017. Prior to his political career, he served in law enforcement for 28 years and retired as McMinnville’s police chief in 2014.

Noble gobbled up many of the endorsements in the Republican primary race, including newspapers such as the Yamhill County News-Register, The Oregonian and Willamette Week. He was also endorsed by more than two dozen legislative colleagues and former elected officials.

On Tuesday night, Noble told OPB he wasn’t quite ready to concede defeat to Erickson.

“There’s a lot of people calling races out there. I haven’t heard anyone call this race yet. Which tells me there’s more to be counted,” Noble said. “It appears Mike is on his way to a win, but we’ll take a look in the morning. I’m not one to hold on without any reason but I think we’re still waiting for some votes.”
Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Mike Erickson, candidate for Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, 2022.
Courtesy of the Erickson campaign /
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Mike Erickson, candidate for Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, 2022.

Sam Stites, Troy Brynelson