The blue wave that carried Democrats to a majority in the U.S. House did not roll past the shores of Eastern Oregon.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden won an 11th term Tuesday night in the Oregon 2nd Congressional District. Early unofficial results from the Oregon Secretary of State show Walden taking 56.3 percent of the vote. Challenger Jaime McLeod-Skinner, Democrat from Terrebonne, pulled in 39.6 percent of the vote. Independent Party candidate Mark Roberts received 3.5 percent.
Walden won Morrow County with 70.5 percent and Umatilla County with 64.4 percent. But two years ago he won Morrow County with 81.1 percent and Umatilla County with 77.6 percent.
The win is Walden’s narrowest margin of victory since his first U.S. House election in 1998. The Republican from Hood River in 10 previous campaigns sprinted past challengers, earning an average of 69.9 percent of the vote.
Justin Discigil, Walden’s communications director, said the representative was in Medford at a large election night celebration and not available for a comment. The campaign issued a statement thanking voters and promising to “remain committed to getting results for our veterans, farmers, ranchers, small business people and our way of life in our district.”
McLeod-Skinner was at an election party in Bend. She said the night did not go her way, but it was good to see the campaign came closer to defeating Walden than previous attempts. She attributed that to pushing a positive message that brought people together around values of family and community, finding common ground and listening to the residents in the district.
“They just want Congress to get back to basics,” she said, such as taking on health care and veteran issues. “That’s what people are interested in and want to see happen.”
She said this is a time of populist politics, and while President Donald Trump uses that for negative effect there is plenty of room for positive focus on local issues. McLeod-Skinner said she hoped the election results drive that home for Walden.
The candidates ran races as opposite as their party platforms.
McLeod-Skinner pursued a dogged ground game, piling up tens of thousands of miles trekking across the big district to attend parades and rallies and engage everyone who would listen. She said there was no campaign infrastructure when she began the effort, but the campaign created a network of energized volunteers that stretched beyond the borders of the Democratic Party to include the Working Class Party and other groups.
She also said she would not run negative attacks on Walden, and that may have cost her some votes.
“I wanted to give people a reason to vote for something,” McLeod-Skinner said. “I’m particularly proud of that.”
Walden ran a less personal campaign. He stopped holding town halls and public events, opting instead for closed-door meetings, tours of vital businesses and fundraising dinners. He also dumped money into TV advertisements and highway billboards, moves he did not make in previous campaigns.
The candidates held one televised debate on Oct. 5 in Bend.
McLeod-Skinner refused to take money from corporate political action campaigns and still raised almost $1.1 million, according to the most recent financial data from the Federal Elections Commission. Individual contributions accounted for all but $26,143 of that. Her campaign also spent more than $971,000.
Walden took in more than $5.1 million. That’s $1.8 million more than he raised for the 2016 election, which he won with 71.7 percent. Walden’s campaign spending topped $3.9 million, almost $600,000 more than two years ago.
Walden serves as chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications, food and drug safety, public health and more. The shift from Republican control in the House to Democrat means Walden’s time as chair is coming to an end, but he’ll likely remain a ranking member on the committee.