Rep. Blumenauer calls on Biden to withdraw while other Oregon Dems stay silent

Oregon’s longest-serving U.S. representative on Wednesday called for President Joe Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, while other members of Oregon’s Democratic congressional delegation and nominees are keeping mum.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from east Portland who plans to retire in January after nearly three decades in the House, became the first member of Oregon’s delegation to take a public stand on Biden’s ability to win in November. 

Blumenauer said the conclusion he and a growing chorus of members of Congress and Democratic donors have reached is not just about extending Biden’s presidency but protecting democracy. 

“It is a painful and difficult conclusion but there is no question in my mind that we will all be better served if the president steps aside as the Democratic nominee and manages a transition under his terms,” Blumenauer said. “He has earned that right.” 

Meanwhile, Oregon’s other congressional Democrats and nominees have kept quiet or stopped short of either full-throated endorsements of Biden’s prospects or calls for him to step aside. The Capital Chronicle sent questions this week to the state’s two U.S. senators, four Democratic members of Congress and Democratic congressional nominees Janelle Bynum and Maxine Dexter. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Dexter did not respond. 

The reticence of most of Oregon’s delegation to take a stance on Biden continuing as the nominee reflects national trends, as most congressional Democrats have circled the wagons in response to Biden’s insistence that he’ll remain the nominee. Only eight other Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, have publicly called for Biden to withdraw.

Wyden, Oregon’s senior senator, responded to the Capital Chronicle with a two-sentence statement. 

“I’m proud of the results that Democrats and I have delivered with President Biden the last four years here in Oregon and nationwide,” he said. “Voters in our state and America fired Donald Trump with cause in 2020 and they’re not going to rehire him in 2024.”

‘Visibly annoyed’

But on Capitol Hill, Wyden has been more blunt. The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Wyden was “visibly annoyed” that Biden and his advisers ignored Wyden’s suggestions that the president get out and meet voters in unscripted town halls like the events Wyden holds each year in every county. Instead, Biden’s post-debate schedule has consisted mostly of scripted speeches. 

Merkley, meanwhile, focused on former President and current Republican nominee Donald Trump, saying the election was a clear choice between democracy and autocracy. 

“It is President’s Biden decision whether he will remain in the 2024 race,” Merkley said. “He has said that he will. As long as he’s the nominee, I will do everything I can to help him win.”

NPR reported Wednesday that Merkley said he shared concerns expressed by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet during a closed-door meeting that Biden would lose in a “landslide” and cost Democrats the House and Senate. 

“I think President Biden should look at all of the information and carry on detailed conversations with key leaders, including Leader Schumer and Leader Jeffries, and should do what’s best for the nation,” Merkley told NPR. 

Our questions

The Capital Chronicle sent these questions to each of the six Democratic members of Oregon’s congressional delegation and two nominees.

  • Do you still believe President Biden is the best person to defeat Donald Trump?
  • If so, what do you think he needs to do to convince uncertain voters?
  • If not, how do you think the party should handle finding a new nominee?
  • Do you have any concerns about how Biden’s poor polling could affect down-ballot races in Oregon? 

Hoyle, who was elected in 2022 and faces a potentially tough reelection campaign in the 4th Congressional District in southwest Oregon, reiterated her support for the “Biden-Harris administration.” 

“I’m with the Biden-Harris administration because they have been incredibly effective and Joe Biden has been the single most pro-union President in the history of this country,” she said. “Trump and Republicans running for the House are more focused on ensuring his downfall than on the safety, security and prosperity of this country. At the end of the day elections are about a choice, and in this case the choice is clear. Biden and his administration have had our back in Oregon and I am going to do all I can to ensure that we protect our democracy which means electing Democrats up and down the ticket.”

Hoyle also defended Biden during a July 5 interview with Eugene-based KVAL, calling his debate performance “awful,” “disastrous” and “disappointing” but said Biden is still the best choice. 

“We have a man that has said he will be a dictator on day one, that is undermining our election integrity, versus Joe Biden who had a really awful debate performance,” Hoyle said during that interview. 

She dodged a question during that interview about whether she was concerned about Biden’s ability to defeat Trump by asking why people weren’t calling for Trump to step down as Republican nominee. 

Salinas, meanwhile, said Biden should do the best thing for the country, without specifying what that would be. 

“I think President Biden should do what is best for the American people,” she said. “The reality is that we cannot afford another four years of chaos and tyranny under Donald Trump—and we have to stand united in our efforts to defeat him and protect our democracy. In the meantime, I’m staying focused on winning reelection so I can continue delivering for the people of the Sixth District.”

Bynum, who is running against Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the state’s most competitive congressional district, declined to comment on Biden. 

“This district, not the top of the ticket, is my biggest priority,” she said. “That’s why I’ve developed a reputation in the state as a person who produces results. Unlike Lori Chavez-DeRemer, I put this work – delivering for Oregonians – first. I’ll continue to focus on that.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: [email protected]. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.