Lesbian former Bay Area leader wins Oregon House primary

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday May 27, 2022
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Oregon congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner won her primary race and will compete in a tough campaign ahead of the November election. Photo: Courtesy Jamie McLeod-Skinner
Oregon congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner won her primary race and will compete in a tough campaign ahead of the November election. Photo: Courtesy Jamie McLeod-Skinner

Ten days after Oregon's primary election former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner was declared the winner of the closely watched race for the Beaver State's newly drawn 5th Congressional District. The progressive ousted from office moderate Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby).

"I'm honored to be elected as Oregon's Democratic Nominee for Congress in OR-5," tweeted McLeod-Skinner. "From Sellwood to Sunriver, Oregonians never stopped believing we can protect our families, our climate and our civil rights. Oregonians — this is your victory."

If she is elected come November, McLeod-Skinner would be the first lesbian from the West Coast serving in Congress. She would also double LGBTQ representation from the three-state region, as gay California Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) is expected to easily win reelection this year.

"For far too long, Oregon's LGBTQ community has not had a voice in Congress. By shattering this lavender ceiling, Jamie is one step closer to changing that," stated Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which named McLeod-Skinner one of its "Game Changer" endorsed candidates this year. "With anti-LGBTQ attacks spreading like wildfire and lawmakers in Congress bent on outlawing abortion and reproductive health care, her election could not come at a more critical moment in our nation's history."

A balloting snafu had delayed the vote count in Clackamas County, the most populous county in the House district. The Associated Press called the race Friday, May 27, after more results were posted, showing McLeod-Skinner in the lead with 57% of the vote.

She will now compete against Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer for the congressional seat in what is expected to be a heated contest. Thursday the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman moved the seat from "leans" Democratic to being a "toss up." He predicted the GOP will pick up anywhere from 20 to 35 House seats in the fall to retake the chamber from Democrats.

"Republicans' House advantage looks as robust as ever," he wrote. "For independent voters, inflation has become such a dominant concern that neither a Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade nor January 6 hearings are likely to drastically alter the midterms' trajectory."

McLeod-Skinner had the backing of LPAC, which works to elect out women across the country, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) in the primary race. Our Revolution, the progressive political group aligned with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), also endorsed her bid.

Schrader, 70, a farmer who had worked as a veterinarian for more than 30 years before entering Congress, had picked up an endorsement from President Joe Biden ahead of the May 17 party primary.

This is McLeod-Skinner's second run for a congressional seat, having lost in 2018 against then-congressmember Greg Walden (R-Hood River) for Oregon's expansive 2nd Congressional District seat. He had held it since 1999 and opted not to seek reelection two years ago.

McLeod-Skinner won election in July 2019 to an at-large seat on the Jefferson County Education Service District but came up short in her 2020 bid to become Oregon's secretary of state. With the decennial redistricting process incorporating parts of the state's former 2nd House District into the new 5th District, McLeod-Skinner jumped into the race for the seat since it covers much of the areas where she ran for office in the past.

Her wife, Cass Skinner, comes from a multi-generational ranching family in eastern Oregon's Jordan Valley. The couple resides in Terrebonne just outside the southeastern border of the new 5th Congressional District.

McLeod-Skinner, who has four children, had first moved to southern Oregon as a child. After graduating from Cornell University McLeod-Skinner worked for the International Rescue Committee in the late 1990s, first in Bosnia and Herzegovina then in Kosovo.

The agency in 1998 sent her to work in its San Jose office; she then took a job with the city of Sunnyvale. In 2008 she went to work for the Santa Clara Valley Water District as an environmental planner.

McLeod-Skinner moved to Oregon in the early 2010s to attend law school. She was hired as the city manager of Phoenix in late 2016 but was fired the following year after a local election brought new leadership to the town's City Council.

Last year she served as interim city manager in Talent, overseeing its recovery from a wildfire that tore through it over Labor Day weekend in 2020. Since November she has worked part-time for Oregon's Department of Human Services in its emergency management unit.

Following her defeat in the primary race for secretary of state, McLeod-Skinner co-founded Team Jamie for Oregon and launched a political action committee under that name to help elect progressives and people of color in rural districts of the state.

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