The redesigned boundaries of Congress place Salem in the newly created Sixth District, the only seat of the United States House in Oregon without an incumbent. Two Portland-area Democrats have expressed interest in the seat, and the longtime Salem state representative has remained silent on his plans.
District 6 on the new Oregon Congress map. (Oregon State Legislature)
For the first time in eight years, Salem has an open playing field for its Congress seat.
The redrawn boundaries by Oregon lawmakers, approved Sept. 27, place the city on the eastern boundary of the newly created Sixth Congressional District that runs from Beaverton to the I-5 corridor and intersects Highway 22 near Aumsville.
The seat will have its first elected representative in 2022. It is the only US House seat in Oregon without an incumbent.
U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader, who has represented Salem since 2009, remains in the Fifth District, which includes his Oregon City home and now stretches east to Bend.
Schrader could run for the Fifth or Sixth District, as U.S. officials are only required to live in the state they are running for, not the same district. His office has so far declined to comment on his plans.
District lines are redrawn every 10 years after the US Census. They are required by federal law to have nearly equal populations and not to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. Oregon won a sixth seat in Congress because its population has grown 10.6% since the 2010 census, adding 406,182 new residents, according to Census Bureau data.
Oregon’s new borders were passed by the Legislature on a largely partisan vote, and five of six congressional districts are safely Democrats or lean that way.
Of these, District 6 is the second-to-last Democrat ahead of District 5, according to Dave’s Redistricting analysis based on statewide election results between 2016 and 2020.
The sixth district has the highest share of Hispanic population at 20.8%, ahead of the fifth district at 10.1%.
Oregon Republicans have said they will challenge the map changes in court, calling the new districts gerrymandered. Senatorial Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, said in a statement prepared on September 27 that court challenges will “undoubtedly” follow amendments to the Congressional redistribution plan, which he says “aims to cement Democratic rule in Oregon for the next decade. “
“In no world does it make sense that Bend and Portland are in the same district,” Girod wrote in the statement. “Allocating urban voters by having four districts that include portions of Portland is the very definition of gerrymandering.”
According to the new maps, District 5 will lose Salem as the most populous city. Prior to the passage of the Redistribution Bill, District 5 included the counties of Marion, Polk, Lincoln and Tillamook and extended to the suburbs of Portland. It now extends to Bend and includes eastern Marion County.
The new lines place Salem in the same neighborhood as several Portland suburbs, including Sherwood, Tigard and Tualatin. Candidates cannot apply for seats yet until cards are finalized, but so far the only candidates to express interest in running are from the Portland area.
A map of the Fifth Congressional District of Oregon prior to the passage of the Redistribution Bill. (United States Census Bureau)
The fifth and sixth districts of Oregon on the new congressional map. (Oregon State Legislature)
Former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who lives in Portland, is the only Democrat to publicly announce that she will run for District 6. Smith said she got a real estate agent to look for a new one. house in the district, but waits to purchase one until the new Congressional district lines are officially defined, reported the Oregonian / OregonLive.
After serving as chair of the House Parliamentary and Legislative Redistribution Committees that redrawn the district maps, Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, began calling this week to let people know she plans to run for office. Congress District 6, according to an Oregonian / OregonLive report. Salinas, a second-term lawmaker lives less than a mile east of District 5.
Tony Caito, a political scientist at Corban University who studies comparative politics and conflict, said the change of map would cause more upheaval for Republicans in Marion County and elsewhere in District 6, and that Democrats would have a easier way to select a candidate. He said Democrats will have “the incumbent advantage” with a qualified majority in the state legislature.
“All of the districts that make up the new six and at least everyone around it already has Democratic incumbents, so that helps a lot,” Caito said. “There is a perception of ‘This is (a) democratic zone’, so people have that in mind when they vote and go through the nomination season.” He added that Democrats have a “stronger political machine” in Oregon, which allows them to reallocate resources outside the new Sixth District if they feel its race is competitive.
Caito said the districts benefit the most from having a single region that the outlying areas see as the center of the population.
“It’s the north corridor of I-5, that if you live in Salem, you probably drive a lot in the southern suburbs of Portland Metro, and there is some unity,” he said. “Even though we are not part of the same communities, we know each other. “
Carina Perez-Europa, vice president of the Marion County Democrats, said she was surprised to see Salem included in the Sixth District, but she is delighted that the region has developed enough to warrant a new representative.
Perez-Europa said she believes the map change gives towns in District 5 the opportunity to have more of a say in the state legislature. “I think in the past there was a sort of idea that these rural areas didn’t matter and that they didn’t feel represented, either at the state level or in federal headquarters.” , she said. “I think that maybe it can make people feel more represented, because they are losing the biggest cities in this district.”
She said it was still too early to identify potential candidates, but Marion County Democrats are getting to work on a plan to register community members as active voters and help candidates to get their messages across to the public.
Marion County Republican President Mike Adams did not respond to a request for comment or questions provided by Salem Reporter.
Contact journalist Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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