PORTLAND, Ore. — With the balance of power on the line in Congress, Oregon's hotly contested 5th Congressional District race is in the national spotlight — and polls currently show a contest that's too close to call.
Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who defeated incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader in the May primary, is going head-to-head with Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. One certainty in the race is that Oregon will add another woman to its Congressional delegation to join Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, who represents the state's 1st Congressional District.
McLeod-Skinner is a Terrebonne attorney and part-time emergency preparedness coordinator, as well as a board member of the Jefferson County Education District.
Chavez-DeRemer served as mayor of Happy Valley from 2010 to 2018. She and her husband co-founded Anesthesia Associates Northwest and own health and wellness clinics that treat drug resistant depression.
The two candidates appeared separately on this week's edition of Straight Talk to make their case to voters on why they believe they are the best fit for the vast and diverse 5th District.
The district was redrawn by Democratic legislators last year after the 2020 census. It stretches from Portland in Multnomah County across the Cascade mountains to Sunriver in Deschutes County.
Change and experience
Chavez-DeRemer said she's the clear choice for voters when they ask themselves if they are better off today than they were two years or ten years ago. People on the campaign trail have told her they're ready for a change in political leadership, she said.
"We see that with one party rule you tend not to have a voice at the table, and I think people are ready for change... we see a lot of issues people are addressing," she said. "The economy, inflation, crime, education — all of those things people are talking about... people are clamoring for change."
McLeod Skinner said her experience on the ground, including wildfire recovery work, makes her the better choice.
"It's the experience, it's the serious leadership, it's the track record," she said. "And a commitment not just to work on our economic issues, being able to address climate change, but also protecting our democracy, protecting our personal freedoms. There's a clear distinction in all these areas.".
On the issue of how to address soaring inflations rates — the kind the nation hasn't seen in 40 years — Chavez-DeRemer said she would focus on a foundation to grow the U.S. and Oregon economies.
"Creating more jobs, being job creators. I want to make sure when I get back to DC that people know Oregon is on the map," she said. "We need to be a better job creator. We have to keep regulations low. And we have to keep taxes low... small businesses have been hurting."
McLeod-Skinner said attacking inflation will require both long-term and short-term approaches. In the short term, the nation needs to address cost of living issues, the cost of housing and the cost of prescription drugs, she said. The high cost of gas is caused in part by unscheduled closures at west coast refineries, she added.
"If anyone is really serious about the price of gas, we should all be outraged by that," she said.
In the long term, McLeod-Skinner said she'd work on addressing supply chain issues and investing in a 21st century clean energy economy.
Pitch to voters
Chavez-DeRemer said the best solutions come when everyone has a place and voice at the table, and she called for an end to one-party rule.
"This is going to be a referendum and a chance to vote this election to change the direction of Oregon and to change the direction of this country," she said.
McLeod-Skinner said the district needs a representative who has experience working across the political divide.
"I do that all the time in Central Oregon. That's how I've been successful," she said. "We need to protect our personal freedoms. We also need to make sure we address the economic issues, the climate crisis, wildfire, drought, flooding, all those things Oregonians are struggling with."
The candidates also talked about reducing homelessness, as well as their positions on gun safety, crime reduction and abortion, and where they see themselves on the political spectrum.
Straight Talk airs Friday at 7pm, Sunday morning at 9:30 after Meet the Press, and 9:30pm. Straight Talk is also available as a podcast.