Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a moderate who has gone against his party on several occasions during the 117th Congress, has been ousted by progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner.
In August 2021, Schrader joined eight—later nine—House Democrat colleagues in opposing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) plan to force through a vote on the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB) and the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJ) at the same time.
Schrader also opposed a $1.9 trillion COVID spending package earlier in 2021, citing opposition to raising the minimum wage.
Schrader’s opposition to policies considered critical by progressives won their ire, and progressives sought to unseat Schrader in his closely watched primary battle.
However, despite his opposition to President Joe Biden’s earlier policies, Biden—who has since his State of the Union address increasingly tried to project a moderate image—ultimately backed Schrader.
On the other side of the ideological divide, McLeod-Skinner won the support of progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the left-wing Working Families Party.
Schrader’s defeat marks a substantial victory for progressives, who have squabbled with moderates relentlessly during the 117th Congress and have sought to move the Democratic Party much further left.
The defeat also suggests that Biden’s influence in the party only goes so far as the president faces criticism for rising inflation and gas prices, record-breaking levels of violent crime, and unprecedented illegal immigration along the southern border.
Schrader, one of the so-called “Unbreakable Nine” who stood against efforts to tie the BBB and IIJ bills together, is the latest of the group to face electoral challenges.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), another member of the moderate coalition, announced in January his intention to step down before the end of his term. In April, he officially stepped down and has since taken a lobbying job with Akin Gump, the nation’s largest lobbying firm.
Another member of the coalition, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who has been under attack from progressives for his opposition to abortion, is currently hanging on by a thread in a race with progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros, who has won the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and several other progressives.
At the time of publication, Cuellar is in the lead by a paper-thin margin of 177 votes.
Schrader was first elected to Congress in 2008 and since then has made a name for himself through his efforts at reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans.
In December 2016, following Nancy Pelosi’s election as House Minority Leader—which Schrader opposed—Schrader criticized Pelosi in harsh terms: “I’m very worried we just signed the Democratic Party’s death certificate for the next decade and a half,” Schrader said at the time.
In February 2021, Schrader was one of only two House Democrats—the other being Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine)—to vote against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. However, Schrader eventually voted for the bill after a section raising the federal minimum wage to $15 was removed.
Schrader’s district leans blue, making it likely that, with her primary victory, McLeod-Skinner will take Schrader’s place in the House during the 118th Congress.