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Mark Gamba steps aside to clear path for Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Central Oregon

Mark GambaJamie McLeod-Skinner of Crooked River Ranch was endorsed in the 2022 race for the 5th Congressional District seat by the only other current Democratic challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby.

In a joint press call with McLeod-Skinner, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba said he was ending his own insurgent campaign to challenge Schrader from the left in the May 2022 primary and would instead endorse McLeod-Skinner. Gamba lost the 2020 primary to Schrader.

"One of us has to beat Schrader, so if it's you that has the best shot, I will back you to the hilt," Gamba said.

McLeod-Skinner thanked Gamba and said she would work to increase aid for housing, health care and other issues that both said Schrader has undercut in opposing parts of President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" plan.

"Oregon's working families are proud. We don't expect the government to do everything, but we'd like a little help during the tough times," McLeod-Skinner said.

In addition to candidates signing up to run against him, Schrader has recently been the target of ads from the Nature Conservancy that open on many web browsers during online searches by residents of the Willamette Valley.PMG FILE PHOTO - U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader faces the biggest change in his congressional district after the Legislature redrew boundaries.

The ads say "Rep. Schrader. The time is now. Don't lose this opportunity to support climate action. Act Now."

Schrader has said his votes reflect a concern about the rising cost of programs that could increase debt and strain future budgets. He's apologized for a statement likening the impeachment of then-President Donald Trump to "a lynching."

His voting record reflects the middle-of-the-road attitude of his constituents, Schrader has said. He's joined congressional groups such as "Blue Dog Democrats" and "The Problem Solvers Group" that seek to find middle ground on policy with Republicans, but are seen by Schrader's liberal colleagues and liberal constituents as leaning too far too the right.

Gamba, a businessman and nature photographer has been one of Schrader's most outspoken critics, especially on climate change. His decision to back McLeod-Skinner is reflective of the major geographical shifts in the new districts that would go into effect with the 2022 election.

The addition of a sixth congressional district awarded Oregon for its population increase scrambled the familiar map of previous years by requiring six equal segments instead of five.

Both parties introduced maps that would aid their candidates, according to most outside analysis. But with a supermajority in the Legislature, it was a Democratic plan that passed in on Sept. 27 and was approved by Gov. Kate Brown.

That set off a rapid-fire round of musical chairs, with much of the focus on the newly drawn 5th district and the brand new 6th district.

The revised map cut Schrader's district in half, retaining the eastern portions while spinning off western areas, primarily to the new 6th district.

The new 5th District runs from the Woodstock neighborhood of Portland, south to the outskirts of Corvallis, before going east.

At the Cascades, it narrows along U.S. Highway 20 as it cuts between Three Fingered Jack to the north and Mount Washington to the south. The district then widens out downslope on the east side to take in Bend and parts of Redmond and Sunriver.

The Deschutes County portion of the new district is currently in the 2nd Congressional District represented by U.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario.

Schrader's home of Canby is still within the new 5th district. But the U.S. Constitution doesn't require U.S. House members to live in their district, just the state they represent.

That gives Schrader the option of switching to a run for the 6th district, leaving the 5th district race wide open.

A Schrader spokeswoman has said the congressman plans to run for "election" to the House, but would not go into specifics.

In a recent interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, Schrader said he was considering his options.

"We're trying to figure that out right now," Schrader told OPB. "I've enjoyed representing the district I currently have… It's going to be bittersweet no matter how it turns out."

Added to the mix is a Republican lawsuit against the maps now being heard by a special panel of five retired judges named by the Oregon Supreme Court. They could recommend that the Supreme Court accept the maps or suggest they be revised. The process could drag on into the new year.

McLeod-Skinner filed to run for the 5th district with the Federal Elections Commission earlier this week. The Thursday event with Gamba was her public announcement of her plans. She previously ran for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2018 and secretary of state in 2020, losing both races.

Gamba's withdrawal is part of McLeod-Skinner's drive to build support west of the Cascades. On Thursday, she also announced endorsements by Sen. Kayse Jama, D-Portland, West Linn Mayor Jules Walters, and Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District board member Miriam Cummins.

Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang is a key supporter east of the Cascades. McLeod-Skinner said she also has the backing of The Vocal Seniority, a part of the "Indivisible" group of progressive community and interest groups.

After the 2020 Labor Day fires, McLeod-Skinner served as interim city manager in Talent, which lost one-third of its homes and businesses to a rapidly moving blaze that also destroyed parts of nearby Phoenix.

McLeod-Skinner's campaign says she worked to bring in millions of dollars in disaster aid and start the city's rebuilding process.

If elected, McLeod-Skinner would be Oregon's first out LGBTQ+ member of Congress. Her wife, Cass McLeod-Skinner, an attorney, is aiding in the campaign.

Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a Republican, has announced she will run in the 5th district. Former state Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, has said she is looking at the race.

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