Nov 14, 2022
Progressives are criticizing Democratic leaders for withholding support from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a left-leaning candidate for Oregon's 5th Congressional District whose close loss to her millionaire Republican opponent, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, could cost the party a chance to retain control of the U.S. House.
"This seat could have made the majority, but the national Democratic PACs walked away and left Jamie to twist in the wind," Working Families Party national campaigns director Joe Dinkin said Monday in a statement. "The GOP knew it was competitive and their spending showed it. WFP did its best to fill the gap."
The Working Families Party spent $1 million on behalf of McLeod-Skinner and was her biggest independent supporter in the primary and in the final month of the general election.
As The Interceptreported Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) invested nearly $2 million to help McCleod-Skinner win in central Oregon, but the ads it funded "came off the air in the final few weeks, and the leadership-aligned super political action committee, House Majority PAC, made the eyebrow-raising move to triage the race altogether."
"Republicans, on the other hand, treated the race in Oregon's 5th District as the toss-up it clearly was," the outlet noted. "They spent nearly $8 million in total--spending that ballooned all the way through Election Day."
McLeod-Skinner, an emergency response coordinator backed by several progressive lawmakers and groups, made headlines when she soundly defeated U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, a right-wing Democrat who voted against his party's coronavirus relief package and helped derail the Build Back Better Act, in the May primary.
Even though Schrader, whom McLeod-Skinner described as "the Joe Manchin of the House," played in a key role in killing a more far-reaching iteration of his party's reconciliation package, President Joe Biden endorsed the seven-term incumbent over his popular progressive challenger in the primary.
Schrader, who also enjoyed a fundraising advantage and benefited from the deployment of $800,000 worth of attack ads funded by Mainstream Democrats--a super PAC bankrolled by billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman--refused to endorse McLeod-Skinner in the general election.
\u201cThe DCCC and House Majority PAC abandoned this race, allowing McLeod-Skinner to get outspent by millions in the final weeks. Kurt Schrader, the outgoing Blue Dog in the seat (and Biden endorsee), refused to endorse McLeod-Skinner, the Dem candidate. A pure establishment own goal.\u201d— Alex Sammon (@Alex Sammon) 1668382268
As journalist Ryan Grim pointed out last week, Democratic leaders claimed McLeod-Skinner "was too progressive and had no shot."
They opted instead to spend more money on DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who went on to lose after forcing his way into a newly drawn district at the expense of Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) and the party more broadly. Although Democrats still have an outside chance at retaining control of the House, McLeod-Skinner's tightly contested race was among those the party needs to win keep its majority.
\u201cDems walked away from Oregon 5 after Jamie McLeod-Skinner beat right wing Dem Kurt Schrader. They said she was too progressive and had no shot and spent money of Sean Patrick Maloney instead. Instead her race is incredibly close and they need it for the majority.\u201d— Ryan Grim (@Ryan Grim) 1668104358
Journalist Austin Ahlman contrasted Democratic leaders' lack of support for McLeod-Skinner with their substantial backing of Chris Deluzio, a progressive candidate who won Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District.
"One got national support and won by six," Ahlman tweeted. "The other was defined by national pundits and unanswered ads."
\u201c@HCTrudo We have a test case. @ChrisForPA was a former Bernie DNC delegate who ran as a stone cold economic populist in #PA17, much like McLeod-Skinner did.\n\nOne got national support and won by 6; the other was defined by national pundits and unanswered ads: https://t.co/oLwsIDpNex\u201d— Hanna Trudo (@Hanna Trudo) 1668380873
Oregon's 5th Congressional District represents "a massive wasted opportunity for Democrats--and it's not the only one," Ahlman argued. "It reopens old wounds around the party jettisoning progressives based on weak rationales."
"Dems had an overarching money crunch, no doubt, but it's hard to defend their race-by-race decisions," he added. "If you weren't a hand-picked moderate suburbanite, you largely struggled."
In The Intercept, Ahlman and Grim noted:
Oregon's 5th [was] in the top 20 when it came to spending by House Republicans, while McLeod-Skinner was near the bottom for Democrats when it came to competitive races. Republicans also had more money to work with: Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republican super PAC, had some $250 million to parcel out across the country, while the Democrats' super PAC spent around $140 million. "The data just wasn't there on that race," argued one Democratic operative involved in the race. "Portland was also an incredibly expensive media market. I don't know where you would have pulled the money from." Of course, the cheaper Bend media market, in the southeastern part of the district, also went untapped.
While a handful of progressive organizations stepped in to alleviate some of the massive financial disparity--including a $1 million investment from Working Families Party that stretched across the primary and general--their limited resources meant McLeod-Skinner, who has long declined support from corporate-funded PACs, was left with an outside spending deficit of over $5 million. The progressive groups who worked to close that gap have been sharp in their criticism. "While they pumped last-minute money into the DCCC chair's losing race in New York," Indivisible national political director Dani Negrete told The Intercept, "Jamie has been holding on entirely based on her strength as a candidate and her grassroots support."
As Common Dreamsreported last week, several progressive champions--including WFP-backed candidates Greg Casar and Jasmine Crockett of Texas, Delia Ramirez of Illinois, Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, Maxwell Frost of Florida, and Becca Balint of Vermont--are heading to the U.S. House.
But progressives could have performed even better in last week's midterms had they received more support from party leadership, advocates say.
"Jamie was an excellent candidate," said Dinkin, "and Democratic leaders should be asking themselves why they couldn't see what Democrats in the district so clearly could."
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