SALEM, Oregon — The battle over who represents Oregon's new congressional district became heated Tuesday as six Democratic candidates jointly denounced almost $1 million in support for a rival party member by a super PAC that focuses on electing Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives
“This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon,” five of the candidates for the 6th District seat said at a news conference. One of the candidates couldn't attend because of a scheduling conflict.
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They noted that candidate Carrick Flynn, who received the support from the House Majority PAC, is already backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried's political action committee, which has provided about $5 million in support for Flynn, mostly in TV ads.
Loretta Smith, a former Multnomah County commissioner who wants to be the first Black woman from Oregon elected to Congress, said she feels betrayed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the PAC's support for Flynn, a white man educated at Yale and Oxford universities who hasn't held elected office.
“I think it’s disrespectful and it’s wrong,” Smith said.
She said Black women's votes were key to getting President Joe Biden elected in 2020 and to giving Democrats a majority in the House.
It is unclear, however, what role, if any, that Pelosi had in throwing the PAC's support to Flynn. Pelosi's top political fundraiser, Mike Smith, last year became the PAC's senior adviser.
The PAC's spokesperson, C.J. Warnke, said in an email that it “is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House Majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal.”
He did not address the complaints by six of Flynn's rivals for the Democratic nomination. Oregon's primary election is on May 17.
State Rep. Andrea Salinas, another of the Democratic candidates for the U.S. House, was befuddled by the PAC's backing of Flynn.
“Why? Who was behind it? Why was this decision made? We have a wealth of candidates, four of whom are women, three women of color — this is a diverse district," Salinas said. “I’ve been doing the work for diverse communities for a long time.”
Flynn's campaign manager, Avital Balwit, said the campaign is "grateful for the confidence and support" of the House Majority PAC and others who are backing Flynn.
“Our campaign is rooted in Carrick’s Oregon values -– hard work, opportunity, and supportive, resilient communities. That message is clearly resonating," Balwit said in an email.
Flynn has worked on pandemic preparedness and biosecurity years before the pandemic and has advised Congress and the White House on pandemic preparedness and the creation of technology jobs, his campaign said. If elected, he plans to focus on the creation of green jobs and pandemic recovery and preparedness.
Also condemning the House Majority PAC’s “unprecedented and inappropriate decision to spend nearly a million dollars in this Democratic primary” were Democratic candidates Matt West, a development engineer at chipmaker Intel who aims to tackle climate change; Kathleen Harder, a physician in Salem; state Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon; and cryptocurrency entrepreneur Cody Reynolds.
Oregon’s 6th congressional district was created by the 2020 U.S. census and extends from Portland’s suburbs to the southwest, including the state capital of Salem and towns in the Willamette Valley and the Coastal Range. The Cook Political Report said the new district would vote “likely Democratic” in the November election.
Republican candidates include state Rep. Ron Noble, former congressional candidate Amy Ryan Courser, clinical psychologist Angela Plowhead and Dundee Mayor David Russ.