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Establishment-linked Democrat will defeat progressive rival in key House primary in Oregon, CNN projects

By Arit John, CNN

(CNN) — Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum will win the Democratic primary in the state’s 5th Congressional District, CNN projects, as establishment Democrats get their preferred candidate in a race that could help determine control of the US House.

With her victory over the more progressive Jamie McLeod Skinner, Bynum will take on Republican freshman Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who was unopposed in her primary Tuesday.

Many Oregon Democratic leaders and national groups rallied around Bynum’s House bid, seeing her as the stronger candidate to take on Chavez-DeRemer. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured more than $1 million into the race on Bynum’s behalf and named her to its “Red to Blue” list for strong recruits.

The 5th District, which stretches south from the Portland suburbs to Bend, is a top Democratic target as one of 16 GOP-held seats that Joe Biden would have carried in 2020 under the current lines.

Bynum, who runs four McDonalds franchises in the Portland area, is currently serving her fourth term in the Oregon House. She won her first two terms with victories over none other than Chavez-DeRemer.

McLeod-Skinner, an attorney, was the 2022 Democratic nominee for the seat – she upset moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader in the primary before narrowly losing to Chavez-DeRemer in the general election. In this year’s race, she had the backing of progressive groups, including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. In the final weeks of the campaign, she was also supported on air by a group called Health Equity Now, which touted her support for “Medicare for All.” The group has ties to Republican operatives.

The Democratic primary for the 5th District grew contentious at times. Some former McLeod-Skinner aides accused her of creating a hostile work environment, according to a report in the Oregon Capitol Chronicle. McLeod-Skinner said she tried to create a “positive” workplace and apologized to anyone who didn’t have a good experience.

McLeod-Skinner criticized Bynum for casting the sole vote against legislation that would have extended the statute of limitations for rape civil cases from two years to seven. Bynum later voted for the bill after it was amended to five years.

Oregon’s 3rd District

Meanwhile, in Oregon’s 3rd District, state Rep. Maxine Dexter will win the Democratic primary, CNN projects, putting her on a glide path to Congress from the solidly blue Portland-area seat.

Longtime Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer is retiring after almost three decades in Congress.

Dexter, a pulmonologist who has served in the state House since 2020, touted legislation she sponsored to make the opioid overdose treatment naloxone more accessible.

Her closest rival for the nomination was Susheela Jayapal, a former Multnomah County commissioner, who portrayed herself as the most progressive candidate in the seven-way primary. Jayapal had the backing of prominent progressives, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and her sister Pramila Jayapal, who represents neighboring Washington state and chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Dexter raised $919,000 through May 1, while Jayapal raised $770,000.  A third Democrat, Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales, raised $606,000.

Dexter has benefitted from more than $1.6 million in outside spending from 314 Action Fund, a super PAC that helps to elect Democrats with science backgrounds. The group delayed its spending blitz in the district until April, meaning it did not need to reveal its donors until the day before the election, after many voters had received their ballots.

Jayapal and Morales held a joint news conference denouncing the dark money pouring into the race on Dexter’s behalf. Dexter also denounced the spending, which she called a “prime example of how broken our campaign finance system is.”

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