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Hot Race Ahead

Greg Walden announces he won't run for re-election to U.S. House

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The 2018 election cycle saw a host of U.S. House seats "flip" from Republicans to Democrats in the so-called "Blue Wave" that swept the country. But here in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2) kept his seat, besting Democratic challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner by about 17 points. Walden has held the seat since 1998.

The 2020 election, however, could be a very different story. Today, Walden announced that he would not seek re-election.

UNITED STATES CONGRESS
  • United States Congress

“For me, the time has come to pursue new challenges and opportunities," Walden said in a statement Monday, adding that he would not seek any elected office going forward.



House seats are decided every two years, meaning that Walden's successor will be decided by voters in 2020. It's not yet clear who will run on the Republican ticket in 2020, and thus far, Walden's 2018 opponent, McLeod-Skinner, is aiming to become Oregon's Secretary of State.
But whoever runs, it's bound to be a race to watch. The 2nd Congressional District represents a vast swath of Oregon, encompassing cities from as far north as Hood River to as far south as Ashland and stretching to Oregon's eastern border. Historically, it's been populated by more registered Republicans than the portions of the state west of the Cascades range. But with massive population growth in cities like Bend, the demographics are shifting. Walden was quoted in Politico earlier this year saying his district “sure as heck ain’t getting any redder.”

What's more, changes reflected by the 2020 U.S. Census could see Oregon picking up a sixth House seat—which would likely include a re-drawing of the boundaries of the 2nd District.

Democratic challenger McLeod-Skinner bested Walden in Deschutes County in 2018—the first time Walden lost the county in his time as U.S. representative.

According to the Oregon Secretary of State's office, as of Sept. 2019, Oregon's 2nd Congressional District had 143,353 registered Democrats, 189,893 Republicans and 197,584 non-affiliated voters. Deschutes County—just one of 20 counties represented in the 2nd District—had voter registrations of 41,426 Democrats, 41,953 Republicans and 45,887 non-affiliated voters as of the same time frame.

County elections results from the Deschutes County Elections reported McLeod-Skinner garnered 45,020 votes in Deschutes County, to Republican Walden’s 44,392 in the 2018 race. The closest anyone got to beating Walden before that was in 2006, when Carol Voisin lost to Walden by nearly 17,000 votes. In 2016, Walden defeated James Crary 63,565 to 31,539, a difference of 32,026 votes.

Following the 2018 election, Jim Foster, professor emeritus of political science at Oregon State University-Cascades told the Source that he believed Walden's loss in Deschutes County—albeit while still ultimately winning the seat—was due to factors such as, "Walden fatigue, compounded by Walden's apparent view that, after all his years in office, he owns the seat and need not interact with constituents (hubris); the ‘double whammy’ that Walden is a member of the Republican House Leadership when that leadership is under the sway (has capitulated to) Trump (revolt), and McLeod-Skinner's smart, professional, mostly positively upbeat campaign (competence)."

Oregon Republicans are, naturally, hoping to see a Republican win the seat.

“Like Congressman Walden, we are very confident of having a strong nominee for Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District and winning the seat again," wrote Oregon GOP Chairman Bill Currier Monday. “We recognize and thank Greg for his exemplary record of public service to his district, our state, and our nation."

For members of Indivisible—a grassroots group of activists—the focus is on accountability while Walden is still in office. As the group wrote Monday, "Deciding not to run in 2020 will give him a chance to summon his courage, find his moral compass, and do the right thing for the people who live in Oregon’s District 2. Greg Walden has one more year, and we promise we will be holding him accountable—to the last day."


Editor's note: This story has been updated as new information has become available.

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.

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