May 15, 2024 - Election

Three frontrunners push ahead for OR-3 seat

Photo illustration of Susheela Jayapal, Maxine Dexter and Eddy Morales.

Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of Susheela Jayapal, Maxine Dexter and Eddy Morales

With Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer set to retire after roughly 30 years in office, his seat in Congress is up for grabs — and three frontrunners are locked in a tight race for what's considered one of the most progressive districts in the state.

Why it matters: Oregon's 3rd Congressional District is in solid Democratic territory — encompassing most of Multnomah, all of Hood and part of Clackamas counties — so whoever nabs the nomination in the Democratic primary next week will likely ride the wave all the way to Washington, D.C.

Catch-up quick: Seven Democrats and three Republicans are on the ballot, but only state Rep. Maxine Dexter, Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales and former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal have raised a significant amount of money, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Context: Jayapal was the first Democrat to enter the race back in November after resigning from the position she had held since 2019 as a commissioner for Oregon's largest county. In that role, she advocated for eviction protection during the pandemic and created the Housing Connector program.

  • Morales, who was elected to the Gresham City Council in 2018, has worked in behind-the-scenes political advocacy here and in D.C. for decades. He previously said he would lean on his organizing efforts to inform how he'd reach across the aisle in Congress.
  • Dexter said her experience as a doctor influenced her work to expand naloxone access into more public buildings, and, as the former chair of the Housing and Homelessness Committee, to pass several bills aimed at building more affordable housing.

What they're saying: Dexter told Axios in an emailed statement that she would fight to build more public housing, secure funds for "innovative approaches like modular housing" and increase federal rental assistance if elected to Congress.

  • Jayapal and Morales did not respond to multiple calls and email requests for comment from Axios, though both have noted their priorities regarding curbing the state's housing affordability crisis on their websites.

The intrigue: When asked by OPB's Dave Miller what subcommittee they would want to serve on in their first term, all three candidates had a different answer.

  • Morales picked the Education and Workforce committee based on his experience in Oregon's public schools as well as advocacy for grant-funded higher education and refinancing student loans.
  • For Jayapal, it would be Financial Services, where she could address the "fees and fines that people in poverty run into."
  • With the caveat that it's unlikely an incoming freshman would have a choice on which committee they serve, Dexter would ask for Energy and Commerce, which oversees health care and climate-related policy making.

What's next: Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day or placed in an official dropbox by 8pm on May 21 to be counted.

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