GOP congressman attacks foe's family ties in Oregon district

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Republican incumbent of a conservative U.S. House district in Oregon, whose forefathers trekked to what was then a territory over 170 years ago, is attacking the pioneer credentials of his Democratic opponent.

Rep. Greg Walden's online ad targeted Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner as they campaign in one of the largest U.S. congressional districts, a ranching-agricultural region covering plains, desert and mountains in eastern and central Oregon. Cowboy hats and pickup trucks are prominent, and so is a rugged independence.

In an Associated Press interview in August, McLeod-Skinner noted that her wife, Cassandra Skinner's family has been ranching in eastern Oregon for over 100 years. Skinner is also a distant relative of former Oregon Cattlemen's Association President Bob Skinner, McLeod-Skinner said.

Walden's ad quotes the rancher speaking dismissively of the link.

"It's time to clear up this nonsense about Jamie McLeod-Skinner being part of our ranch family. She's a California liberal who came out to the ranch a few months back and got a selfie under our sign," Bob Skinner is quoted as saying. "Her wife may share our last name, but they're a distant branch of the family."

Skinner asked McLeod-Skinner to stop using his ranch sign in her campaign.

Responding to the ad, McLeod-Skinner said she never claimed Skinner's endorsement. He had invited her to his ranch, she said.

"We talked about public lands, we talked about a lot of different issues, water issues," the Democratic candidate said. She also went to the cattlemen's association.

"He was very cordial, so I was surprised to see the tone" in the Walden ad that focuses "on divisiveness we're seeing in Washington," McLeod-Skinner said.

She said she wants constituents to reach across party lines to find common ground on health care, education and economic development.

Walden's ad said his paternal ancestors came to Oregon in fall 1845 before it became a state in 1859. He's seeking his 11th term in Congress. Walden typically wins around 70 percent of the vote and vastly more campaign funds.

McLeod-Skinner went to Ashland High School in Oregon and received a law degree from the University of Oregon. She is a former city councilwoman in Santa Clara, California.

While campaigning, McLeod-Skinner has crisscrossed the district — the second-biggest in America among states with multiple districts — in a Jeep pulling a teardrop trailer that she sleeps in.

McLeod-Skinner and Walden have a televised debate scheduled for Oct. 5.


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