Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Oregon 5th – Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) is seeking a 2nd term
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: Willamette Valley/Central Coast
Days until Election Day: 91
Scandal plagued the Republican nominee in Oregon's 5th district in 2008 and helped Democrats add to their 12-year lock on this seat. This year, Republicans have a new candidate they hope will give Democratic freshman Rep. Kurt Schrader the kind of serious challenge he missed out on two years ago.
Schrader was a 12-year veteran of the Oregon state legislature in 2008 when he ran to succeed retiring six-term Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley. His GOP opponent that year was Mike Erickson, a businessman and entrepreneur who challenged Hooley in 2006 and held her to 54 percent. Erickson's bid was hobbled by allegations that he had impregnated a woman several years earlier and then paid for her to have an abortion. He later admitted to having a relationship with the woman but denied paying for the abortion. Erickson nevertheless managed to win the primary despite the allegations, but the story would essentially define his campaign for the remainder of the election. Schrader went on to win with 54 percent, compared to 38 percent for Erickson. But Schrader's sizable 16-point margin of victory was probably less a statement about his strength as a candidate as it was about the weakness of his opponent.
In Congress, Schrader has not strayed far from the Democratic party line. He voted in favor of major Democratic legislative initiatives, such as health care reform, financial reform, the economic stimulus plan and the "cap and trade" energy proposals. In his first year, he voted the White House position 92 percent of the time and with his party 95 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly.
The Republican nominee this year is Scott Bruun, a three-term state representative first elected in 2004. Since the Oregon legislature meets only part-time, Bruun also holds a day-job as a vice president of an Oregon-based investment company.
In terms of fundraising, Schrader has a clear but not insurmountable financial advantage. As of mid-year, he outraised Bruun $1.2 million to $471,000. Almost two-thirds of Schrader's contributions have come from political action committees; Bruun actually slightly outraised Schrader in contributions from individual donors, $448,000 to $435,000. But Schrader has the advantage in terms of money in the bank, with $915,000 socked away as of June 30, compared to $178,000 for Bruun.
Visitors to Oregon's 5th district would probably best remember the picturesque shoreline in Tillamook and Lincoln counties to the west, but the district's population is concentrated to the east in the Willamette Valley. It includes the state capital, Salem, and some far suburbs of Portland in Clackamas County. Unlike the heavily Democratic 1st and 3rd districts, home to most of the voters in the Portland area, and the heavily Republican 2nd district, which covers all of eastern Oregon, the 5th district is a swing district. Historically, both presidential and House candidates of either party tend to win this district by smaller margins than they do elsewhere in the state. Hooley only won the district by more than 55 percent on one occasion. President Obama carried the 5th with 54 percent, and President Bush carried the district in both 2000 and 2004, each time with 49 percent.
The race is not as competitive as the open-seat contest to replace Democratic Rep. Brian Baird in the nearby 3rd district of Washington State, but Republicans nonetheless have a relatively rare opportunity to pick-up an additional seat in the increasingly Democratic-leaning Pacific Northwest. While Schrader is still in relatively good shape compared to other freshman and sophomore Democrats across the country, the voting history shows that this district is not a slam-dunk for Democrats. Plus, a lot can happen in 91 days. Nationally, the attitude towards the White House and the Democratic Congress worsen. Locally, if Bruun becomes more financially competitive, he could test Schrader in a way the previous GOP nominee was unable to do.