OREGON NEWS, POLITICS

National Republicans begin targeting CD5 candidate Bynum over police reform efforts

A national Republican group will launch its first ad targeting Democratic congressional nominee Janelle Bynum on Thursday, signaling that Republicans see Bynum’s legislative work on police reform as a weakness in a key swing district.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s ad, which will air on digital platforms, calls Bynum “Oregon’s most pro-criminal politician” and includes audio of her on a podcast from Portland-based publication Street Roots praising 2020 racial justice protests. While the protests, which continued for months, were largely peaceful, some days turned into riots where people were injured, millions of dollars worth of property was damaged and a counter protester was shot to death.

The protests in Portland and nationally that followed George Floyd’s murder by a white police officer in Minneapolis also spurred the Oregon Legislature to pass a set of nine police reform laws in 2021. Bynum, who at the time was the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsored several of the bills and played a key role in shaping and shepherding each of them.

Most of those laws passed with widespread bipartisan support. They limited officers’ abilities to arrest protesters or journalists covering protests for failing to follow orders, required more police training, required officers in larger cities to wear their name, badge number or other identifying information on their uniforms and clarified that police have discretion to arrest people at protests deemed unlawful assemblies. 

As the Judiciary Committee chair and the only Black woman in the Oregon House, Bynum became the face of the Legislature’s police reform efforts. Three years later, as she runs for Congress against freshman Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, the NRCC and other Chavez-DeRemer backers hope to use that legislative record to paint her as soft on crime in the closely divided 5th Congressional District. Republican groups used similar talking points against 2022 Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner, running ads claiming she wanted to defund the police. 

The new ad targeting Bynum chides her for voting for a budget bill that it says gave “millions to defund the police groups” and for joining other legislators in calling on then-Gov. Kate Brown to release hundreds of medically vulnerable Oregonians from prison early in the COVID pandemic. 

It also includes audio of her appearance on a February 2021 episode of the Street Roots podcast, saying, “It was pleasing to see the protests” and “We pass legislation in concert with protests.”

NRCC spokesman Ben Petersen called her in a statement “the ringleader of the far-left circus that turned Portland into a crime-ridden wasteland.” 

“Bynum teaming up with defund the police protestors and carrying water for their radical agenda in Salem shows she cannot be trusted to keep Oregonians safe,” he said. 

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Julia Shumway is deputy editor of Oregon Capital Chronicle and has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.