Crowded race for Congress in Oregon’s newest district

At its March 2022 convention, the Oregon AFL-CIO honored State Rep Andrea Salinas (pictured with president Graham Trainor) as a “warrior for workers” for sponsoring a farmworker overtime bill that became law this year. | PHOTO BY TOM COOK


Nine candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for Oregon’s newly-created Sixth Congressional District, which covers Yamhill, Polk and parts of Clackamas, Marion and Multnomah counties. 

Two are current state legislators who have union endorsements: Andrea Salinas and Teresa Alonso Leon. 

Two others have union ties. Loretta Smith had a solid pro-union voting record and union backing when she was Multnomah County Commissioner from 2011 to 2018. And Matt West, an engineer at Intel, grew up in a union household and is currently working with the Communication Workers of America (CWA) to unionize his workplace. 

Then there’s Cody Reynolds, a cryptocurrency investor who’s contributing $2 million of his own money.

And all of them are mad about the mountain of money coming from New York and California to bankroll first-time candidate Carrick Flynn. Flynn—an Oregon-born Yale law grad who was living in Washington DC until 2020—is so far backed by $6 million from a cryptocurrency billionaire, $1 million from the Nancy Pelosi-linked House Majority PAC, and $800,000 in individual contributions, only 2.5% of which are from Oregon-based donors.

Andrea Salinas

For the most part, Oregon labor is lining up behind Andrea Salinas, a state representative for Oregon House District 38 (Lake Oswego and Southwest Portland). Salinas herself has a union background: She once lobbied for the National Treasury Employees Union, and was a member of its staff union.

This year, Salinas sponsored a farmworker overtime bill that became law. It was personal: Salinas’ father worked agricultural jobs after emigrating from Mexico as a child.

In her run for Congress Salinas is endorsed by the Teamsters, Oregon Education Association, SEIU, Carpenters, UFCW and the union-backed Working Families Party.

Salinas told the Labor Press she regrets her 2019 vote to cut PERS (she first voted “no,” but after meeting privately with House Speaker Tina Kotek she emerged in tears and changed her vote). 

“When this job is long gone, I will always have that feeling of remorse, that I hurt public workers,” she said.

Salinas says Congress can help workers by raising the minimum wage and implementing national paid family and medical leave. She supports the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act, and opposes NAFTA-style trade agreements.

Teresa Alonso Leon

Teresa Alonso Leon, endorsed by AFT-Oregon, is currently a state representative for Oregon House District 22, which includes Woodburn and Salem, and was most recently chair of the House Education Committee.

She’s the daughter of migrant farm workers, and a former Woodburn City Councilor.

Alonso Leon was a union member when she worked for the state as a high school equivalency administrator, an SEIU-represented job. 

“I was very proud to become a union member, because I saw it as an extended family that you can reach out to when you needed help,” Alonso Leon told the Labor Press. 

She earned a “gold” rating from the Oregon AFL-CIO during the 2017 and 2021 legislative sessions. She helped pass legislation providing $100 million for recruiting and retaining teachers. She’s also proud of sponsoring and passing 2019 bills establishing paid family and medical leave, and allowing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Her public sector experience made her 2019 vote to cut PERS painful, but she viewed it as investing in education, because it was part of a compromise that included massive new school funding.

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