GOP National Leader McCarthy racks up Portland criticism for Oregon Republicans
Republicans in Oregon have made a ritual of tearing Portland and its policies apart during election years. On Wednesday, the top Republican in the US House of Representatives decided to get in on the action.
While raising money for Republican congressional candidates across the West, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., showed up at a Tigard hotel to tear up ‘reimbursement’ policies of the police” which he said had exacerbated crime in Portland and other liberal cities.
“The one-size-fits-all that Democrats have about police cuts doesn’t work,” he said. “We are watching homicides increase. Crime is increasing. The local economy is collapsing. The real question is how many people over the past two years have sought to get to downtown Portland.
Appearing alongside U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and three GOP candidates hoping to win in November, McCarthy spoke about the rise in killings and unrest in Portland, explicitly linking these issues to a progressive movement aimed at cut funding for the police.
Top Democrats, including President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said several times they disagree with a push to defund law enforcement passed by some of their party’s most progressive members – and that in fact they increased police funding. While McCarthy linked the majority party to defunding the police, he did not claim they did, repeatedly bragging federal grants for law enforcement and promising to tighten the criteria for receiving these grants.
Alongside McCarthy were mayors and other elected officials from Portland-area towns, including Troutdale, Gresham, Canby and Aurora. As part of the event’s roundtable format, they told McCarthy about their public safety concerns, with many urging him to ensure their small communities can compete for the money. federal public safety.
“We’ve seen firsthand the problems in Portland that have crept into Gresham,” said Gresham Councilor Sue Piazza. “Crime in Gresham has increased exponentially. It’s still amazing to me.
Wednesday’s visit was further evidence that the GOP sees Oregon as a potentially fruitful place to flip Democratic House seats as it tries to retake the chamber in November. McCarthy has made no secret that he really wants to be the next Speaker of the House.
Republicans currently hold just one of the state’s five congressional districts – a safe red seat from eastern Oregon held by Bentz. But with national political winds at your back, newly reshaped district boundaries and a brand new congressional district open for the taking, the party thinks it can win at least one more seat in Beaver State.
Republicans are particularly optimistic about the 5th congressional district, which was reshaped in last year’s redistricting process and now stretches from Portland to Bend.
Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, a seven-term incumbent, lost a lead challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Terrebonne lawyer and consultant who ran to his left. She takes on former Happy Valley Republican mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer in a race that many analysts consider a draw. The political forecast site fivethirtyeight currently gives Chavez-DeRemer a “slight advantage”.
A sign of GOP optimism in the district: the Congressional Leadership Fund, a McCarthy-affiliated Republican super PAC, announced in April it had spent $3.3 million to book advertising space in the Portland market.
Republicans appear to have a tougher fight in the other two Oregon districts they would like to topple this year.
In the 4th Congressional District that includes much of coastal and southwestern Oregon, Democratic Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle and Republican Alek Skarlatos are vying for the opening left by Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio. Skarlatos, a former Oregon Army National Guardsman who rose to prominence for his role in thwart a 2015 terrorist attack in France, mounted a competitive campaign against DeFazio two years ago.
But under the redrawing, the seat has turned more blue, a factor DeFazio cited when announcing his retirement last year. Democrats now hold an 8% registration advantage. Even so, Republicans named Skarlatos one of their “pioneer” candidates, signaling that they believe he has a chance of overthrowing the district.
One national Republican candidate not talked about much: Mike Erickson, a businessman and three-time congressional candidate who won a competitive GOP primary for Oregon’s new 6th congressional district.
Erickson faces state Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, in a district that stretches from Portland to Salem and west to the Coast Range. Democrats hold a registration advantage of more than 5 points, and many forecasters believe the party has a good chance of winning in the district.
McCarthy gave no hint Wednesday that his candidates could lose.
“I believe this election will change the course of history,” he said. “Oregon could be a fundamental state that changes direction. I think voters want to see something different.
Portland has long served as a foil for Republican candidates willing to paint the city’s problems and policies as an example of Democratic failings or overreaching. This has been especially true since 2020, when a combination of pandemic shutdowns, growing homelessness and convulsive protests for racial justice caught the attention of national Republicans like former President Donald Trump.
After calls from some progressive groups and city officials, Portland cut its police budget and got rid of a gun violence reduction team that critics have accused of disproportionately targeting black residents. The city has since reinstated a similar effort under a different name and with more oversight.
At the same time, Portland has seen an increase in shootings and murders. In 2021, the city recorded a record 92 homicides, and it could exceed this number This year. Assaults and property crimes increased last year compared to 2019, according to statistics from the Portland Police Bureau.
These problems are not unique to Portland, or even states and cities run by Democrats. McCarthy’s own hometown of Bakersfield, led by a Republican mayor and under the jurisdiction of a law and order district attorney, has observed increases in murders, sexual assaults and robberies.
McCarthy suggested that these problems stem from state policies enacted by Democrats.
Like many downtowns across the country, Portland has also struggled to regain its pre-pandemic shape. A recent highly publicized study suggested that the city has fallen behind other large and medium-sized cities to attract people to the city center. The Portland Business Alliance published its own data Tuesday, countering that narrative and suggesting that pedestrian traffic in the city center has recently increased.
McCarthy recently traveled West to tout the candidates. Monday he puzzled for a Republican congresswoman in New Mexico under the auspices of an education roundtable, and hosted an event in Las Vegas yesterday to support three GOP candidates in Nevada.
The National Democrats released a statement ahead of McCarthy’s visit. But where the House Minority Leader wanted to talk about crime, Democrats hammered home the issue they most wanted to put to voters: abortion and the disappearance of Roe v. Wade.
“Oregonians overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to choose — but that hasn’t stopped Alek Skarlatos, Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Mike Erickson from pushing an extreme anti-abortion agenda,” said Johanna Warshaw, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. in a report. “With this visit from Kevin McCarthy, the Oregon GOP pitch made it clear that he would be a solid vote for a national abortion ban.”
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Portland who is unlikely to lose his seat this year, offered his own thoughts. In a statement, he attacked McCarthy for threatening to investigate FBI officials after the agency executed a search warrant at the home of former President Donald Trump earlier this month. Agents reportedly searched for documents that Trump had improperly kept when he left the White House, including very sensitive material.
“The idea that Republican enablers want to discuss public safety while excusing Donald Trump’s unlawful handling of highly classified documents and attacking the FBI is shameful,” Blumenauer’s statement said. “This is pure grandstanding when America needs leadership.”