Observers doubt Dem’s chances of unseating Walden

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, represents the 2nd Congressional District. While Oregon Democrats hope for a ‘blue wave,' the 2nd District, encompassing Eastern Oregon, is seen by many as an unlikely flip in November.

SALEM — A fundraising site unveiled Friday by the Democratic Party of Oregon reflects the party’s efforts to unseat Oregon’s lone Republican in Congress this November, when some predict a reactionary “blue wave” to the policies and presidency of Donald Trump could flip certain districts from red to blue.

Seven Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican who has represented Oregon’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District since 1999.

The candidate who wins the Democratic primary May 15 will receive the funds collected by the site, repealwalden.com. As of midday Friday, the site had collected $1,600 in donations, according to DPO spokeswoman Molly Woon.

It’s yet to be seen whether a wave of blue will come to Oregon’s Second District, which spans from Medford and Klamath Falls in Southern Oregon, to the Central Oregon recreation meccas of Bend and Hood River, to the vast expanse of Eastern Oregon.

While Democrats are optimistic that Post-Trump political engagement could work in their favor, other observers are less sanguine about Democratic prospects in District 2.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political prediction website run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, labeled Walden’s seat as “Safe” Republican on March 15.

Jim Moore, a professor of political science and director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, thinks there’s little chance that Democrats could win the 2nd District.

“But, and the ‘but’ is pretty big at this point, if there is a wave election, Greg Walden is going to be vulnerable,” Moore said.

A wave election is when one party makes significant strides. It will hard to tell whether the 2018 election will be a “wave” election until October, Moore said.

Democrats believe they have a chance.

“The political winds are shifting and Republicans like Greg Walden will face serious challenges to their reelection in November,” said Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon, in a statement on Friday.

“We really don’t know what’s going to happen, but clearly stranger things have happened,” said Woon, the DPO spokeswoman, referring to recent special elections in Alabama and Pennsylvania that elevated Democrats to previously Republican seats, and to a recent statewide ballot measure election that affirmed state funding for Medicaid.

The Democratic Party of Oregon said Friday that Republicans in Oregon’s 2nd District have a registration advantage of 11 points, identical to the Republican advantage in the Central Pennsylvania district where Conor Lamb won an election to the House of Representatives in a special election last week.

But Lamb leans to the right of the Democratic candidates in Oregon’s 2nd District, countered Kevin Hoar, a spokesman for the Oregon Republican Party.

“Such a candidate would get trounced in the Democrat Primary in (District) 2, where the candidates are all competing to be the most far left, kooky resistance Democrat nominee,” Hoar said in a message to the EO/Pamplin Media Capital Bureau.

Moore says there are notable differences between that district in Pennsylvania and Oregon’s District 2, including the size and economic diversity of the district, typically higher voter turnout in Oregon and a substantial number of voters who are nonaffiliated.

In 2016, Walden clinched 71.7 percent of the general election vote, soundly defeating Democratic opponent Jim Crary, a retired lawyer from rural Jackson County who got 28 percent of the votes.

Crary is throwing his hat in the ring again in 2018.

What’s different about this year?

“The level of engagement,” Crary said. “It’s night and day...People who were sitting up in the stands watching the game are now down in the field playing the game.”

Dr. Jennifer “Jenni” Neahring, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, emphasizes health care as part of her platform.

Neahring says it’s an issue that she believes not only needs reform, but could galvanize voters of all political stripes in the district, contending that residents of the district were disgruntled about Walden’s role in Congressional efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which expanded eligibility criteria for Medicaid.

“It’s not a Democrat, or Republican, or nonaffiliated issue. It’s everybody’s issue,” Neahring said. “And it’s the issue (Walden) clearly got wrong.”

Hoar, the Oregon Republican Party spokesman, claimed that Democratic “policies have laid waste to the economy of rural Oregon, especially through failure to properly manage our forests and by killing off natural resource-based industries.”

Asked to comment, a spokesman for Walden re-sent a statement previously sent to the EO/Pamplin Capital Bureau Dec. 27.

“The people of Oregon’s 2nd District have consistently and strongly supported Greg Walden as their voice in Congress because they know he is a powerful force standing up for our veterans, working across party lines to fix broken forest policy, and helping hard working taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” spokesman Justin Discigil wrote in an email. “Oregon has no stronger voice for the ranching, farming and small business way of life that dominates the east side of the state. Greg’s campaign has thousands of local supporters and the financial wherewithal to run another positive, effective, winning campaign.”

Two other Republicans have filed to compete in the primary against Walden.

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