Political Notebook: West Coast LGBTQ US House expansion falters in Oregon

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 22, 2024
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Eddy Morales, left, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner both lost their congressional bids in Oregon. Photo: Courtesy the campaigns<br>
Eddy Morales, left, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner both lost their congressional bids in Oregon. Photo: Courtesy the campaigns

Seeing all three West Coast states send LGBTQ people to Congress this year hit a wall in Oregon. Neither of the two out House candidates running in the Beaver State survived their May 21 primary races.

There still remains a chance of seeing Washington State voters elect the first out member to the Evergreen State's congressional delegation. It holds its primary in August, and queer Democratic state Senator Emily Randall is vying to secure one of the two spots for her state's 6th District House seat on the November 5 ballot.

California is all but assured of seeing its two gay Congressmembers, Mark Takano (D-Riverside) and Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach), be reelected this fall. LGBTQ leaders are also hoping to see out representation among the Golden State congressional delegation at least double with the elections in November of gay candidates Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Cupertino) and attorney Will Rollins to seats in Silicon Valley and the Coachella Valley, respectively.

LGBTQ leaders in Oregon will have to wait until 2026 to see if they will have another chance to elect an out House candidate. Their doing so will likely depend on the outcomes of this year's races and what the incumbent officeholders will decide to do in two years.

In the Portland region LGBTQ leaders could find themselves waiting years for their House seat to open up again. Oregon House of Representatives member Dr. Maxine Dexter (D) appears to have a lock on winning the 3rd Congressional District seat come November.

The straight state lawmaker took a commanding first-place lead in her primary contest, with 50.74% of the vote according to the unofficial election results. She defeated queer Grisham City Councilmember Eddy Morales, who received 14% of the vote for third place.

Coming in second, with 28.46% of the vote, was Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, the sister of Washington state Congressmember Pramila Jayapal (D). Dexter will face Republican lawyer Joanna Harbour on the November ballot, as the two women won their party-based primary contests.

Morales called Dexter Wednesday to congratulate her on her victory and pledged to work with her as a House member. In a thread on social media site X, he noted, "No election result will ever change the fact that I will never, ever stop fighting for these values and this community. I am so incredibly proud of all the work and the organizing we've done."

Due to the district's voter makeup heavily favored toward the Democratic candidate, Dexter is expected to easily win the race and become the first Black woman from Oregon to serve in the House. She is set to succeed Congressmember Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), who decided not to seek another term this year.

Blumenauer congratulated Dexter on her victory Tuesday night.

"Maxine has proven herself to be a serious and effective legislator, I am confident she'll take this success with her to Washington, D.C.," he stated. "I look forward to partnering with her to ensure our district is well-served when she is elected in November. There is a lot of work to do on behalf of our community."

In the Democratic primary race for Oregon's District 5 House seat, Jamie McLeod-Skinner again came up short. A lesbian former councilmember in the Bay Area city of Santa Clara, McLeod-Skinner lost to Janelle Bynum, who serves in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Bynum, Oregon's only Black state lawmaker, received 68% of the vote, based on the unofficial returns. McLeod-Skinner, who lost two previous House bids, conceded Tuesday night.

"I want to congratulate her," McLeod-Skinner told local reporters. "Now is the time to bring the folks together because there's so much at stake in this election in November."

Republican Congressmember Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley was unopposed in her primary race. She had narrowly defeated McLeod-Skinner in their 2022 general election race and is once again facing a tough campaign against Bynum. Their race is considered a toss-up by political prognosticators.

Now LGBTQ politicos will be watching to see how Randall fares in her August 6 primary. Washington uses the same open primary system as California, so the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the November 5 ballot.

Randall, a former Bay Area resident, is locked in a fierce contest against fellow Democrat Hilary Franz, a Washington public lands commissioner. Also in the race is Republican state Senator Drew MacEwen.

They are competing to succeed Congressmember Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) in Washington State's Puget Sound region. He endorsed Franz.

Washington State's senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Patty Murray, sole endorsed Randall in the race. In mid-May the Truth To Power Political Action Committee, created by progressive Southern California Congressmember Katie Porter (D-Irvine), endorsed Randall, who would be the first LGBTQI+ Latina to serve in the House.

Porter's PAC also endorsed Democratic Delaware state Senator Sarah McBride in her House bid. If elected, McBride will be the first transgender member in Congress.

"I have seen firsthand how important issues for families, like disability justice and paid leave, don't rise to the top of Congress' agenda because too many politicians are busy catering to their corporate donors. Sarah and Emily both refuse to take corporate PAC contributions and will be fighters for the American people, not corporate special interests," stated Porter in announcing the endorsements.

Golden State House races

Porter, who is leaving Congress at the end of her term due to failing to survive her U.S. Senate seat primary in March, also endorsed Rollins in his race against Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona). His 41st Congressional District seat includes the LGBTQ resort and retirement mecca Palm Springs where Rollins now lives.

Rollins lost to Calvert two years ago but has drawn far more significant support from the Democratic Party for his 2024 candidacy. The seat is one Democrats hope to pick up this cycle, though Calvert is seen as having a slight edge in the race.

Yet, a recent poll done by David Binder Research showed Rollins up by one point over Calvert at 45%among likely voters. Rollins will be in San Francisco June 2 for a $100 perperson fundraiser with Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of U.S. TransportationSecretary Pete Buttigieg; RSVP online to be sent the location ahead of the event.

Having survived a recount of his primary race that the San Jose Mercury News recently reported received significant funding from a committee controlled by billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Low is facing a tough fall contest against former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. The fellow Democrat took first place in their primary for the 16th Congressional District seat that Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) will be vacating at the end of her term.

Three other out congressional candidates are seen as underdogs in their respective fall contests. Of the three, gay progressive lawyer David Kim has the strongest shot of being elected.

He is running again against fellow Democrat Congressmember Jimmy Gomez of Los Angeles for his 34th Congressional District seat. Kim would be the first out Korean American elected to Congress should he win.

Progressive activist Derek Marshall is again running against Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in the state's 23rd Congressional District. It covers the high desert areas east of Los Angeles.

In the Bay Area Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a leader within the state's Vietnamese American community, is running for the 12th Congressional District seat centered in Oakland. The Democrat is partners with Oakland sex shop owner and nightlife venue operator Nenna Joiner.

Having also mounted an unsuccessful primary bid for the U.S. Senate, Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) will be leaving Congress at the end of the term and is backing fellow Democrat BART board member Lateefah Simon to succeed her. Simon, a straight ally, took a commanding lead in the primary over Tran and is expected to win in November.

UPDATED 5/28/24 with details about Rollins' fundraiser and new polling.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, returns Monday, June 3.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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