Seal of Oregon

Oregon 2020 Elections: The Progressive Candidates to Support (Pink Tsunami)

Blue states like Oregon are always ones to pay attention to in regards to the progressive movement. While there is an inherent desire to improve conservative shitholes like Alabama by voting out all the right wing dipshits, it’s only natural that progressives would have a better shot in places where basic human decency is the norm. I guess it goes without saying that there are quite a few progressive challengers to talk about. In fact, there is a progressive challenger in all five of Oregon’s congressional district. But I suppose we need to talk about the Senate race first.

It is pretty safe to assume that Jeff Merkley isn’t in any real danger of losing his Senate seat this year. 2014 was a brutal year for Democrats and Merkley still won his last election by over 250,000 votes. In the middle of a blue surge, the inevitable throwaway Republican candidate will be lucky to manage more 40% this time. It is for this reason that I feel no shame in promoting a third party candidate as an alternative to Merkley.

Vapes again
Jesus fucking Christ, leave the vapes alone already!

Despite the fact that the progressive movement has increased in steam in the past few years, it seems as if most of the major progressive candidates are attempting to make it through the Democratic Party. If we are to genuinely reform the US government, then doing away with the two party system is a necessary step, and I haven’t seen much discussion about this beyond a few Bernie Supporters saying they’ll vote for Howie Hawkins instead.

Hawkins isn’t going to win I’m afraid. Not only have we never had a Green Party candidate win the Presidency, we’ve never even had a Green Party candidate elected to congress! Hell even winning elections to state legislature is rare, and it’s uncommon in local elections. If we are going to build up a viable alternative to the Democratic Party, then the obvious choice is to elect more third party candidates into local offices. We have already seen this in my home state of Pennsylvania last year, and hopefully we see this occurring throughout the rest of the country as well.

The Green Party is not the only party to the left of the Democratic Party, but it is one of the most well known parties that isn’t the Democratic or Republican Parties, so it goes without saying that they are more likely to have ballot access in the larger elections. We are unlikely to see a Green Party Senator any time soon, but there is another reason to vote for Ibrahim Taher instead of Jeff Merkley.

As I stated, Jeff Merkley is in no danger of losing this race, so there isn’t nearly as much of a risk of “spoiling” as in some other races. And while Taher isn’t going to win, there is still a reason to support his campaign. Many of those who brush off third party candidates tend to think in very black and white terms. IE they think the only reason one would run is to win. In reality, the best reason to support Taher’s campaign is to help spread his message and push the overton window further left.

Ibrahim Taher

I have had positive words to say about Merkley when I wrote my 2020 Senate Piece, but I wasn’t quite as informed back then as I am now. While Merkley is preferable to your Amy Klobuchars, Joe Manchins, and Chris Coons, he’s still allied with the establishment and is basically another Obama, someone who will pretend to be progressive and care about the people while doing nothing to challenge the status quo.

This can be seen in Merkley’s support for US intervention in Libya, and Syria, his lip service to single payer healthcare and drafting of severely watered down “compromise” bills, the fact that he ignored ICE and was silent on Immigration while Obama was President and made it a major part of his platform under Trump, his support for the anti sex-worker bill SESTA/FOSTA, his refusal to endorse Bernie Sanders in his 2020 Presidential campaign, and likely many other things.

In short, Merkley is your standard liberal, America needs more than just your standard liberal, and it’s clear that Ibrahim Taher has much more to offer than Merkley. In a just world, that would give Taher a fighting chance at victory, but instead the best we can hope for is to get the ball rolling, and and no one will commit unless they see that other people are already doing it. So now is as good of a time as any to take the lead.

Ibrahim TaherDonation Link

Mark Gamba | Brand New Congress

But once again, the senate race is not the main event. Instead, I would like to direct you to the House elections. While Oregon does not have a Justice Democrats endorsed candidate, it is the first state I have covered to have a progressive challenger in all of its congressional districts. This means that if you live in Oregon, there IS a reason for you to mail in your primary ballots no matter where you live! Reminder that the deadline to request an absentee ballot is on May 14th, and the deadline to return it is on May 19th!

Of these five candidates, the one with the best shot is Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba. Not only does Gamba have prior electoral experience under his belt, but he has a large slew of endorsements as well. While he doesn’t have a Justice Democrats endorsement, he has been endorsed by both Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, in addition to that of the Sunrise Movement PDX, Oregon Single Payer Advocates, RootsAction, Independents for Progressive Action, Bernie PDX, Women for Justice, the Oregon Working Families Party, 350 Salem Climate Action, the Blue America PAC, the Salem Democratic Socialists of America, the Oregon Progressive Party, and a number of elected state and local politicians.

Mark Gamba has raised $182,442 as of March 31st, which is a pretty impressive amount by the standards of an insurgent challenger, but is not impressive when compared to incumbent Kurt Schrader’s $1,244,654. Predictably as fuck, Schrader’s campaign funds are made up mostly of PAC contributions because Schrader is a corporate scumbag, but it nonetheless makes it hard for Gamba to compete.

Schrader Accountability Flyer

Hopefully Gamba can pull through because Kurt Schrader is yet another conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat, and we need to send as many of these Blue Dogs back to the pound as possible if we are ever going to make genuine progress in this country. Kurt Schrader’s record consists of him voting against the Dream Act, accepting contributions from the Koch Bros PAC Koch Industries and the NRA, voting against raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and having one of the lowest lifetime environmental ratings out of any House Democrat. Earlier this year, we did see Illinois’s Dan Lipinski get primaried by Justice Democrat Marie Newman, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else is in a good enough place to take another Blue Dog’s seat this year.

That being said, Mark Gamba does have the best shot at any of the remaining progressive challengers to Blue Dogs since he not only has the most funding of them, but his name recognition as Milwaukie Mayor, combined with the fact that this district favored Bernie Sanders in 2016, means that we could very well see a closer race than we expect.

5/25/2020 Update: Mark Gamba did not win unfortunately, so this blue dog will continue to hump Oregon’s leg for the next two years.

The next two candidates, Albert Lee of Oregon’s 3rd District and Doyle Canning of Oregon’s 4th District, have about a similar chance of winning their respective primaries. I’d give a slight edge to Doyle Canning since she has raised $178,082 and is within the 1 to 10 ratio of incumbent Peter DeFazio, while Lee has raised only $85,405 compared to incumbent Earl Blumenauer’s $1,172,655. The only thing that makes it less clear is that Albert Lee has secured the endorsement of Our Revolution national while Canning has not.

Albert Lee & Doyle Canning | Brand New Congress

Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio are similar to that of Jeff Merkley in that they appear progressive in regards to a select few issues, but they are very much career politicians who will not fight for the progressive movement in any serious way. Both of them are guilty of most of what I said about Merkley, particularly in regards to imperialism and general partisan bullshit. Both of them are funded mostly by corporate PACs, were in favor of invading Libya, voted in favor of SESTA/FOSTA, and both have done next to nothing to fix Oregon’s real estate market or its increasing rate of homelessness.

Both congressmen also have their own individual fuckups, such as Blumenauer voting in favor of the anti gay Defense of Marriage Act and war with Syria, or DeFazio voting in favor of a House resolution condemning the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. Needless to say, Doyle Canning and Albert Lee would be significant improvements over these two.

5/25/2020 Update: Neither of them won.

The last congressional incumbent is Suzanne Bonamici, and she’s also in the same camp as Blumenaauer and DeFazio in that she’s progressive when compared to Blue Dogs like Kurt Schrader, but she doesn’t even have as good of a record as either of the former two. Every shitty vote mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs also applies to Bonamici with the exception of DOMA because she didn’t assume office until 2012. Supported war in Libya and Syria, check. Voting against BDS, check. Voting in favor of SESTA/FOSTA, check. Mostly funded by corporate PACs, check.

Amanda Siebe | Sunrise Movement PDX

Unfortunately, Bonamici is the least likely incumbent House Democrat to be successfully primaried, because her progressive challenger Amanda Siebe has only raised $7,568 as of March 31st. Siebe has secured a few noteworthy endorsements such as the Oregon branches of Justice Democrats and Our Revolution (not to be confused with the national branches that make a significant difference in congressional races), the Portland chapter of the Sunrise Movement, and the Oregon Progressive Party, but we have already seen that it takes a significantly larger amount to flip a congressional seat. Regardless, she could still use your vote and as much support as she can get, so be sure to send in your vote for her if you live in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District.

5/25/2020 Update: Amanda Siebe was unsuccessful in her primary.

That leaves one congressional district left, and that is Oregon’s 2nd District. The current incumbent of this district is Republican Greg Walden, and like many of his colleagues, he’s deciding to retire this year because he doesn’t like having to put in serious effort to defend his seat after 2018 had him win by the lowest margin in his 20+ years in office. Given that the 2018 Democratic nominee, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, has opted to run for Secretary of State this year, and that there’s no financial data for the Democrat candidates, this is pretty much an open race.

Nik Heuertz

While this means that the progressive candidate Nik Heuertz, has as good a chance as any, it also means that he will most likely lose because he’s running in a district with a PVI rating of R+11 and likely won’t have the funds necessary to compete with the inevitably corporate funded Republican candidate.

6/7/2020 Update: Nik Heuertz came close to the nomination, but was sadly unsuccessful.

Mark Gamba – Donation Link
Doyle Canning – Donation Link
Albert Lee – Donation Link
Amanda Siebe – Donation Link
Nik Heuertz – Donation Link

Jamie McLeod-Skinner

On that note, it seems like it would be a good idea to talk about that Secretary of State election. The most progressive candidate seems to be the aforementioned Jamie McLeod-Skinner who was endorsed by the local branches of Our Revolution and the Sunrise Movement. While all three candidates are running on progressive promises, the fact that McLeod-Skinner is self imposing limits on campaign contributions leads me to believe she’s the most genuine. The fact that the two other major candidates lost support of the Oregon Labor unions due to a shitty vote also gives McLeod-Skinner an edge in this election.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner – Donation Link

5/25/2020 Update: McLeod-Skinner was sadly unsuccessful.

And this leads us to the section on State Legislative Elections. Most of the Democratic candidates seem to follow the same trend as the incumbents discussed earlier; they will support progressive policies on a surface level, but are also purely partisan and will serve their party before their constituents.

I’ve looked through literally hundreds of campaign websites throughout the past half a year, and I’ve seen the same empty platitudes and corporate buzz phrases again and again. As a result of this, I’m limiting my focus to those that are the genuine real deal, or at least those that do a convincing job at pretending to be. There are five candidates I’d like to talk about, all running for State House, and each running in blue districts.

Paige Kreisman

The most well known of these challengers is Paige Kreisman, a socialist trans woman and veteran mounting a primary challenge to Democratic incumbent Rob Nosse, a “progressive” lawmaker funded by big corporate donors including the healthcare, telecommunications, real estate, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical industries, in addition to that of the anti teacher’s Union, pro charter school PAC, Stand for Children.

Meanwhile, Kreisman refusing to accept corporate donations while campaigning on a Green New Deal, protections for tenants rights, and limits on campaign contributions. Kreisman has also secured the endorsements of the local branches of the Sunrise Movement, Our Revolution, the Democratic Socialists of America, and Socialist Alternative.

On top of all this, Kreisman also has the support of the Oregon AFSCME Council after Nosse voted to cut retirement savings to members of Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System and pissed off Oregon labor unions, so Kreisman may have a shot at this.

The other four, Mark Daily, Jacob Bride, Khanh Pham, and Zach Hudson, are each running for open seats in blue districts. While Khanh Pham has had high ranking positions with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and OPAL Environmental Justice, and Jacob Bride has served as an Army National Guard and Human Resource Specialist, Daily and Hudson don’t seem to have any noteworthy positions of influence or experience. This shouldn’t be much of a problem for Hudson considering he has no primary opponents, his district is trending blue, and his opponent is pretty much a nobody as well, but it may be a bit harder for Mark Daily since one of his primary opponents is former Coquille Economic Development Corporation CEO/Chair Cal Mukumoto.

2/25/2020: Unfortunately, the only challenger to win their primary was Khanh Pham.

Paige Kreisman – Donation Link
Khanh PhamDonation Link
Jacob Bride – Donation Link
Zach Hudson – Donation Link
Mark Daily – Donation Link

Sarah Iannarone

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the Portland Mayoral Election. I’ve generally avoided talking about local elections given that I already have my hands full with state and federal elections, but I’d be remiss to mention this race’s progressive challenger, Sarah Iannarone. Sarah managed a decent third place in 2016 with a low budget campaign, but this time she has access to public funding and significantly increased exposure and name recognition.

I find this election noteworthy because, while Mayor’s only have influence over the city they represent, being the Mayor of a major city like Portland would be a major sign of the progressive movement taking hold in Oregon. And for all we know, Sarah Iannarone could be a future Governor or congresswoman if she is successful in this election. Bernie Sanders started out as a Mayor, just saying.

Sarah IannaroneDonation Link

5/25/2020: Sarah Iannarone has come in second place in her race and will be heading to a runoff against the current incumbent in November.

I guess it’s only inevitable that the progressive movement would be in full force in a state where so many politicians pretend to be progressive. Hell I fully admit that it’s possible I missed some candidates given that it’s harder to do thorough research on state legislature candidates because there’s so fucking many of them.

I must say, it looks like the progressive movement is set to make a resurgence this month. A lot of us may have lost hope due to the constant defeats throughout the past two months. Last week had Morgan Harper with the weakest performance of a Justice Democrat this cycle, which came after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Presidential Race. But this month we have Kara Eastman who is set to win the nomination Nebraska‘s 2nd congressional district, and we have a slew of progressives in Oregon.

It’s hard to say if any of the candidates covered are in the “will definitely win” category like Eastman, but we have a number of candidates with good chances. Mark Gamba has a better shot at beating Schrader than most insurgent challengers, but his lack of funding makes me uncertain he can manage it. I naturally don’t have much confidence in the rest of the congressional challengers or in Ibrahim Taher winning, but I like the chances of everyone else we covered.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner could very well manage the Secretary of State nomination due to her opponent’s shitty votes, Paige Kreisman is a very strong candidate who will at worst, lose by a slim margin and try again in 2022, every other state House challenger are at least even matched against their opponents, and Sarah Iannarone is at the very least set to advance to a runoff against the incumbent. At least one of them is bound to win.

On top of that, there’s the Campaign Finance Limits Amendment that is up on the ballot, and given the electoral leaning of this state, it is sure to pass. The fight for our progressive utopia is a long and arduous one no doubt. There is so much shit that needs to be accomplished that it can be demoralizing for a lot of us. Hell I imagine the reason so many people my age don’t bother to get involved with politics is because it’s so much effort to understand it all, and why bother if none of our politicians really care about our rights to begin with?

And perhaps what I enjoy most about these pieces is knowing that the more progressives win, the more that young people may actually become involved in the process, and will realize that they aren’t alone. Bernie may be done, but the rest of us are just getting started.

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