With Congress in its traditional August recess, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, has returned to the sprawling 2nd Congressional District for a summer month of campaigning and fundraising.
Walden appeared at the Chief Joseph Days parade in Wallowa County on Saturday and will host a major fundraiser in Wilsonville for House Republicans across the country.
“Greg will be spending the month of August meeting with farmers, ranchers, small-business owners, veterans and other hard- working Oregon families and local leaders across the vast district,” Walden spokesman Justin Discigil said.
Walden is running for re-election to the seat he has held for two decades. Voters will decide in November between Walden, Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebone and Independent Mark Roberts of White City. On Saturday, Walden had a brief, unscheduled meeting with his Democratic opponent.
“I saw Greg today at the Chief Joseph Days parade in Wallowa County and challenged him to debate,” McLeod-Skinner said Saturday. “He said he looked forward to debating me. I hope he follows up on his statement.”
The 2nd Congressional District covers 20 counties and nearly 70,000 square miles, roughly two-thirds of Oregon, including all of Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties. A portion of the eastern part of the district is in the Mountain Time Zone.
Discigil said that specifics of where and when Walden would be appearing this month will be released in the future.
The only other known stop is Wilsonville, where Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Friday that Walden will take part in a major Republican fundraiser in the Portland suburb, which is outside of his district.
Walden will keep a promise he made last year to hold a town hall meeting again in Bend — but the date and location will be determined later, Discigil said.
Walden regularly racks up 60 percent of the general election vote. While McLeod-Skinner and Democrats would like to be part of a “blue wave” of unexpected Democratic congressional victories across the county, the 2nd Congressional District is rated as “solid Republican” by numerous political forecasting websites.
The uphill fight is reflected in how Walden raises and spends money, while his challengers struggle to compete financially.
Reports from the Federal Election Commission show Walden has raised $4.2 million in the current two-year cycle and spent $2 million. Counting money left over from the previous cycle, Walden has $3.2 million in the bank as of June 30. According to opensecrets.org, a website that tabulates campaign fundraising, the largest contributors to Walden’s campaign have been pharmaceutical, health care, telecommunications, oil and gas and broadcasting companies.
Walden has raised the most money of any Oregon House member, with no other incumbent from the state topping $1.6 million.
Federal reports say McLeod-Skinner has raised $282,000, spent $182,000 and has just under $100,000 in the bank.
Roberts has not filed a campaign finance report.
McLeod-Skinner said Walden’s huge money lead and its sources can have a negative effect on people’s view of the congressman.
“I often hear that the current representative seems to have forgotten where he comes from and who he represents — there’s a lot of frustration with all the corporate PAC money he’s received,” McLeod-Skinner said.
Any suggestion that Walden isn’t fully engaged with his Oregon constituents is wrong, Discigil said.
“Greg’s focus remains squarely on working to solve problems and grow jobs for the constituents of Oregon’s 2nd District, and his role as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” Discigil said.
Unlike Democrats in the past, McLeod-Skinner says she has campaigned in all 20 counties, not just the usual Democratic strongholds in Bend and Hood River.
McLeod-Skinner said she believes Walden is vulnerable on the issue of health care, having played a key role in the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Voters in our district, across the political spectrum, are struggling with more limited access to health care and increasing costs,” she said. “My opponent’s response has been to advocate for further cuts in programs that our most vulnerable communities rely on, such as Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, and Community Health Centers.”
Another issue McLeod-Skinner planned on bringing up in any debate is Walden’s support for large tax cuts she said most benefit wealthy Americans.
Discigil said Walden was championing support for veterans and for reforms affecting the illegal use of opioids.
“He is working hard to reform federal forest policy to put people back to work in the woods and help prevent catastrophic wildfires that we are experiencing right now, which have once again choked Oregon’s communities with smoke,” Discigil said.
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