Greg Walden’s long-held seat in Congress is up for grabs this November, and a crowded field populates the primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides. On the Democratic side, we have a field of five candidates, including John Holm, who lists "currently disabled" as his occupation, with past experience as a broker; Nick Heuertz, a retail store owner; Jack Howard, an attorney and Union County Commissioner; Alex Spenser, a former campaign strategist and writer; and Chris Vaughn, a store manager who wants to bring the voice of the working class to Washington, D.C.
Replacing a member of Congress who has held the seat since 1998 is no small feat, and whoever ends up with this nomination will face strong competition from the Republican contenders. Walden’s announcement of his retirement represented an immense opportunity for the Democratic party to field a strong, well-organized candidate in a district that saw a very strong showing by Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner in 2018. Unfortunately, we are not seeing the kind of organization and backing that this race requires. We’d like to hope the party can galvanize around a candidate after the May primary, but we are beginning to have our doubts.
Among this field of candidates, Nick Heuertz is the strongest, most organized and most prepared to face the race ahead. On paper, Howard appears a promising candidate, but told us he doesn’t believe in newspaper endorsements–making it impossible to believe that in a position that requires this much media attention and scrutiny he has the requisite skill set to succeed for the district.
While each of the candidates has expressed support for reforms in health care, green jobs and campaign finance, Heuertz set himself apart from the pack by being able to clearly communicate his plans for each. We also appreciate his ability to be pragmatic in the face of some of this district’s most explosive issues—namely, how to balance the “environment versus economy” question that often pits liberals against conservatives. On that topic, Heuertz said he believes it’s not an “either-or” argument—demonstrating the type of compromise needed in a district that, while still majority red, gets more purple every year.
Winning this race—one in which there’s no incumbent for the first time in two decades—could, in theory, have been more in reach for a Democratic candidate than had been possible in a very long time, but it’s going to take some serious muscle in the way of campaigning and preparation to see that achieved against some of the other current and former lawmakers running in the primary on the Republican side this November. Before we get there, the candidate most ready to move beyond the May primary is Heuertz.