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US House minority leader backs Oregon GOP congressional candidates in Tigard visit

Oregon Republican leaders said a visit from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy signals national interest in Oregon's expanded congressional races.

TIGARD, Ore. — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with top Oregon Republican congressional candidates in Tigard on Wednesday as the GOP hopes to pick up congressional seats in the November election.

McCarthy was flanked by Congressman Cliff Bentz and three Republican candidates for the House of Representatives during a public group discussion about crime and public safety in Oregon.

"Everybody wants to feel safe, and you can not have law and order without order," McCarthy said.

But it was McCarthy's presence that signaled an endorsement for a party looking to both gain ground in Congress and gain votes in Oregon's newly created congressional districts.

“I think what you should take from me being here is that we’re serious these races can be won," McCarthy said. "This can be part of a new movement to send a new direction across this country, these are the leaders to make that happen

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KGW political analyst Len Bergstein said it’s unusual for national Republican leaders to look to Oregon for votes, but the redistricting of the congressional map creates opportunities.

“Now we’ve got six districts that have been redrawn, and there’s a lot of flux in the political scene, so there’s a possibility the Republicans think that maybe an additional seat or two might be up," Bergstein said.

Republican candidate Alek Skarlatos is looking to replace retiring Democrat Peter DeFazio in the 4th district.

In District 5, Lori Chavez-DeRemer is facing Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who defeated incumbent Kurt Schrader in the primary.

Plus, Republican Mike Erickson hopes to win in the newly created 6th district in a contest with Democrat Andrea Salinas. 

“It’s important for all Oregonians, Republicans and Democrats, to see the attention is here. If Leader McCarthy is going to come out here and focus on these races, we’re a top-tier race," Chavez-DeRemer said.

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Bergstein said it's a tactical political decision for these Republicans to align themselves with the national GOP establishment at this point in the race.

“It’s a smart move for you in August to be seen, to be closely allied with the person who might just be the next Speaker of the House," he said.

Erickson echoed talking points from the discussion, including crime spreading from larger cities to suburbs and problems hiring and retaining law enforcement officers.

"We need to fund the police, pass legislation to help police do the job, not make it harder," Erickson said. 

McCarthy frequently redirected the conversation to the narrative of defunding police and why he believes that created problems.

Bergstein said Republicans will hope McCarthy’s visit helps propel the 4th, 5th and 6th District congressional candidates in their races before November.

“Somewhere when they’re away from the cameras, McCarthy is going to say to these folks, I’ve given you a boost. Let’s see what you can do," Bergstein said. "They’re not going to come back and help an Oregon district where the candidate isn’t outraising their opponent, isn’t making moves and the polls aren’t showing some sort of traction."

McCarthy and many other Republican leaders criticized Portland and crime in the city Wednesday, but no representative from Portland or Multnomah County was part of this discussion.

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