City Cast

There’s an Open Seat for Congress in Portland

Rachel Monahan
Posted on November 6
with a plaid bowtie and a green bike pin, the congressman carries a folder

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer in the halls of Congress, April 2023. (Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) has a distinctive look: he wears a bow tie and bikes around town, handing out bike pins.

In fact, he’s such a Portland legend he already has a bike and pedestrian bridge named in his honor.

Also, he’s spent years advocating on behalf of Oregon’s cannabis industry for the national legalization of cannabis. But my personal favorite tidbit about him: He has never himself partaken. (Apparently, you still have to forgo the drug to be taken seriously in the Halls of Power.)

From a safe Democratic seat, he’s worked on a range of issues: addressing climate change, cutting agricultural subsidies, and fixing the nation’s flood insurance policies.

He’ll retire from Congress next year after more than 50 years of public service. He was elected to the Oregon House in 1972 and served on the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Commission. He once ran unsuccessfully for mayor, but no, he’s not planning to run for that next year.

The Race to Replace Him

With a May primary for the 3rd Congressional District just over six months away, Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal resigned from office as of Nov. 1, a day after Blumenauer’s public announcement.

Jayapal has already locked down a notable group of endorsements: County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, state Rep. Tawna Sanchez (who co-chairs the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee), and Rukaiyah Adams, a director of the Albina Vision Trust.

But it looks like she’ll be getting some competition in the Democratic primary: Gresham city councilor Eddy Morales has officially entered the race. State Rep. Maxine Dexter (D-Portland), an emergency room doctor, is also considering a run, so too is State Rep. Travis Nelson (D-Portland), who works for the nurses union and won the legislative seat previously occupied by Gov. Tina Kotek last year.

It’ll be one of two fascinating Portland-area Democratic congressional primaries to watch. The other is in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District: the race to challenge first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

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