Record spending in a Democratic House primary could not give a political newcomer the boost he needed to overcome a local politician with a long career.
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Andrea Salinas has won the Democratic primary election for the newly created Oregon 6th District seat in the United States House of Representatives. Practically since it started, the election race was the object of intensive media attention, which most often centered around Salinas’ opponent Carrick Flynn, whose campaign was generously funded by the Protect Our Future political action committee (PAC) backed by billionaire FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. The PAC paid for a flood of advertising supporting Flynn.
Salinas won the seat with 38% of the vote, while Flynn came in second at 19%, with the remaining votes split among seven other candidates.
Salinas had a solid political background, serving three terms representing Portland’s upscale Lake Oswego suburb in the state House of Representatives. Before that, she was a legislative aide in Washington and worked for an Oregon environmental group. Flynn, an Oregon native who left the state after he graduated from college in 2008 and returned in 2020, was lifted from obscurity through the support of the PAC.
Flynn was also the recipient of $1 million in support from the House Majority PAC, which is closely associated with House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Elizabeth Warren countered that move by endorsing Salinas. Flynn appeared to be a serious contender in a poll released on May 7. Protect Our Future changed its advertising tactics a few days after that, shifting from ads predominantly featuring Flynn’s difficult rural childhood to attack ads on Salinas, accusing her of being under the sway of the pharmaceuticals industry.
Protect Our Future’s stated goal is “to help elect candidates who take a long term view on policy planning […] guided by a series of key principles” that include pandemic prevention and a belief in science. These themes echo a philosophical trend called effective altruism, which both Flynn and Bankman-Fried are known to admire. Estimates of the amount spent by Protect Our Future on Flynn’s campaign are in the range of $8 to $10 million.
“This is, by all accounts, about three times higher than any other Super PAC efforts in any congressional primaries in the country,” Jim Moore, director of political outreach at the McCall Center for Civic Engagement, told Cointelegraph in an email:
“The ads bought Flynn name recognition, but not victory. They created a backlash among the other candidates and apparently a number of voters about outside money trying to buy a congressional seat.”
Flynn’s election opponents formed a united front in condemning him, and local media made much of Flynn’s loose ties to the state, his spotty voting record and the possibly questionable motives of the PAC backing him. The controversy soon attracted national coverage as well.
“Flynn’s political future in Oregon will depend on whether he becomes an active player in state or local political efforts,” Moore said. “If not, he will end up being a trivia question about the time a cryptocurrency billionaire and the House Majority PAC tried to snatch Oregon’s new district for reasons that were never made clear in the campaign.”
Protect Our Future’s abundant financial support has proven to be controversial in other election races as well. The PAC’s donations were used in ads by an opponent of Jasmine Crockett in Texas District 30. Crockett has received about $1 million from the PAC. Protect Our Future is also among the PACs choosing between Democratic candidates Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath in the contentious battle for Georgia’s 7th District.
Flynn, Andreas and Protect Our Future president Michael Sadowsky have not responded to Cointelegraph’s requests for comment at time of publication.