Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba announced at his April 19 birthday celebration that he will run against Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader in next year's Democratic primary.
In rallying the crowd Friday evening at the Portland Waldorf School in Milwaukie, Gamba asked, "I don't think people who are working a full-time job should be living in poverty, do you?"
Gamba has criticized Schrader for being "out of touch" on issues such as health care. He and other local Democratic activists — seeing how Schrader frequently sides with the timber industry and farm groups on environmental issues — have given up on their U.S. representative to push for significant strides to combat climate change.
"We need people in Congress who understand the science, understand the enormity of the problem and have the backbone to stand up to the fossil-fuel industry," Gamba said.
Gamba said he won't accept money from corporate political action committees, as this month he set up an official campaign committee through the Federal Election Commission. He was elected to the Milwaukie City Council in 2012 and has been mayor since 2015.
Gamba will not have to give up his mayoral seat in order to run for Congress. He ran unopposed for mayor in 2018, and his current term expires in December 2022.
A veterinarian from Canby, Schrader, 67, has represented Oregon's 5th Congressional District — which includes most of Clackamas County — since 2008. Identifying as a moderate, he supported the Affordable Care Act and has worked with bipartisan groups on efforts to reduce the budget deficit. In recent months, he helped lead unsuccessful efforts to deny Rep. Nancy Pelosi another term as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Paul Gage, Schrader's chief of staff, defended Schrader's record on climate change and other issues in a recent interview with OPB. Gage noted that the congressman voted for a 2010 bill to cap carbon emissions and for the Obama administration's clean-energy plan.
"We've had other people who have tried to make waves in the Democratic primary," Gage told OPB. "But when they look at Kurt's overall record, they think he fits the district and does a good job for them."
Gamba said that the time has come for leadership that makes larger changes at the federal level. He turned 60 last Friday and is a veteran photographer who has worked for a host of publications including National Geographic.
"We need to elect leaders who will raise the federal minimum wage, raise taxes on corporations, spend less on wars and more on people, so we have the funds to stop climate change, fight income inequality, end homelessness and provide quality health care for all Americans," Gamba said.
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