Warren endorses in crowded Oregon primary

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren is wading into a crowded Democratic House primary that has pitted the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm against House Democrats’ flagship super PAC.

The Massachusetts senator is endorsing state Rep. Andrea Salinas in her bid to become Oregon’s first elected Latina in Congress, joining a long list of progressive and Latino elected officials and organizations to back Salinas ahead of next week’s primary.

One of the most expensive primaries in the nation, the contest for the open Oregon 6th District seat has also been marked by millions in spending by a new cryptocurrency-backed super PAC known as Protect Our Future.

Warren’s endorsement draws renewed attention to party divisions over the race: House Majority PAC, which is closely aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, last month opted to intervene and inject $1 million in ads on behalf of a white, male, first-time candidate in a newly drawn district that’s more than 20 percent Latino. It’s a move that has left progressive and Latino leaders fuming and focusing more closely on the race in recent weeks.

“Andrea Salinas is the progressive champion we need fighting for Oregon working families in the 6th Congressional District,” Warren said in a statement shared first with POLITICO. “I am proud to back her historic campaign and look forward to working alongside her to get things done in Washington.”

Warren also touted Salinas’ record as a “passionate and effective” advocate for abortion access and her role in helping Oregon pass on the country’s strongest reproductive rights laws while in office.

The former Democratic presidential hopeful has been active in endorsing progressive candidates ahead of this year’s primaries, backing more than two dozen candidates, including Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’s Senate bid and Nida Allam, a North Carolina county commissioner running for a House seat. Earlier this year, she traveled to Texas to rally for a pair of progressive House candidates, including Jessica Cisneros, who is challenging veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Salinas has endorsements from a range of progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Service Employees International Union and League of Conservation Voters Action Fund. She also has been backed by top Latino groups and half of the Latina Democratic lawmakers in the House.

Salinas’s race, however, didn’t make national headlines until House Majority PAC decided to step in with support for Carrick Flynn. The new district — which President Joe Biden would have carried by 14 percentage points — is not currently being targeted by Republicans.

HMP didn’t provide much clarification on why it was backing Flynn, leaving many to speculate as to the super PAC’s motivation. In a joint statement, six of the Democratic candidates in the primary, including Salinas, called HMP’s spending “a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon.”

Some of the campaigns and Democratic strategists have questioned whether the decision was tied to the heavy support — more than $7 million worth — Flynn has received from Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old billionaire co-founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

Following the fallout from HMP’s spending, BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm, made its own $1 million spend on ads on behalf of Salinas. The investment, BOLD PAC said, represented a “doubling down on our commitment to increase diversity in Congress while ensuring that Democrats have the best chance to defend our majorities.”

On Tuesday, BOLD PAC launched its second round of ads as part of the buy, touting Salinas’ progressive track record pushing to lower prescription drug costs and her role in passing strong reproductive rights legislation.

A recent poll by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling found Salinas leading Flynn, 18 percent to 14 percent, with the rest of the field in the single digits.

The poll, conducted for the Salinas’ campaign, found that Salinas leads Flynn by a 16-point margin among those who say they have already voted, 39 percent to 23 percent. The poll has a 4-percentage-point margin of error.

Salinas, for her part, said that the attention both nationally and locally after HMP’s investment on Flynn’s behalf has helped boost her candidacy in the May 17 primary as more voters began to follow the race more closely.

“It really helped galvanize people… I think voters’ minds were kind of moved to, ‘Wow, we better figure out what we’re dealing with here and we can’t just be spoon-fed this rhetoric and all these commercials,” Salinas said. “It was rough there for a while, but I think Oregon voters are not going to be bought.”

If elected, Salinas would be one of only a few Latinas in Congress. Currently, only 13 out of the 435 House members are Latina — less than 3 percent.

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