- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Issues with counting ballots in Oregon’s third-largest county could delay for days a definitive result in a key U.S. House primary where Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader was facing a strong challenge from a progressive candidate.

Schrader was trailing Tuesday in early returns in the 5th District race against Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The race was too close to call in part because of a printing issue with ballots in Clackamas County.

Meanwhile, a cryptocurrency billionaire-backed political newcomer conceded to a longtime state lawmaker in Oregon’s now 6th District, which was one of the nation’s most expensive Democratic congressional primaries.

Blurry barcodes made vote-counting machines reject a large number of ballots in Clackamas County and elections workers were transferring the votes by hand to fresh ballots so they could be tallied. Parts of the 5th and 6th Districts are in Clackamas County.

Teams that include both Democrats and Republicans are duplicating every ballot so they can be scanned and extra workers were brought in to help. In a statement late Tuesday, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan called the issues in Clackamas County “unacceptable,” but said she was confident the final results would be accurate.

In the 6th District southwest of Portland, political novice Carrick Flynn tweeted late Tuesday he was conceding to state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who would be Oregon’s first Hispanic congresswoman if elected in November. Flynn said he would campaign for Salinas, who was endorsed by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a standard-bearer for the party’s progressive wing.

“It is vital that this seat turn blue and Democrats retain control of the House,” Flynn wrote.

In the 5th District, seven-term incumbent Schrader trailed McLeod-Skinner in a dramatically redrawn district that leans a little less blue.

The district, which once stretched to the Pacific Coast, now reaches east to include Bend, where Schrader has less name recognition. President Joe Biden recently endorsed Schrader, a veterinarian and former state lawmaker, but he has alienated progressive members of his party over the course of his last term.

He was one of two House Democrats to vote against a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, in part because he didn’t want the bill to include an increase in the minimum wage. He also voted in committee against a Biden-supported plan that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate outpatient medication prices with pharmaceutical companies.

But some primary voters are concerned that McLeod-Skinner, an attorney and former city planner, wouldn’t be as competitive in November, particularly given that issues such as crime and homelessness are even on the minds of moderate Democrats.

Money poured into the Democratic race for the newly created 6th District seat that featured Flynn, the relatively unknown political newcomer backed by a cryptocurrency kingpin, and Salinas, a three-term state lawmaker. The race has attracted a total of 16 candidates combined for the House seat created by the 2020 census reapportionment.

The nine Democrats competing in the primary have spent more than $18 million combined and drawn more than $13 million in outside money to date, making the race one of the most costly among Democratic primaries nationwide, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics.

Top among those was Flynn, who was backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s political action committee.

In another key race, the state’s current Labor Commissioner and a former state lawmaker Val Hoyle won the Democratic nomination in the race to replace Rep. Peter DeFazio in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, which is wide open for the first time in decades as the incumbent retires after 35 years.

In Oregon, nonaffiliated and third-party voters together make up the largest group of voters and they won’t find the congressional primaries on their ballots. By 8 p.m. Tuesday, 22.5% of voters had returned a ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and have a week to arrive and be counted.

Elsewhere, Rep. Cliff Bentz won the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District and Joe Yetter won the Democratic nod for the seat in the heavily red district.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici won the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District and Rep. Earl Blumenauer won the Democratic nomination for the 3rd District. Christopher Mann won the GOP nomination in the 1st District.

None of the incumbents in those districts faced any serious primary challenges.

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