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Blumenauer will not seek 15th full term

Oregon Democrat known for bowties and bicycle pins was progressive fighter

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., says he will retire after his current term ends.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., says he will retire after his current term ends. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who has been in the House since 1996, won’t seek another term next year but plans to continue to fight for progressive causes “without the burden of day-to-day politics.”

Blumenauer, 75, told Willamette Week ahead of his official announcement Monday that he expects Democrats to win control of the House next year.

“I’m quite confident of that,” Blumenauer told the newspaper. “But it’s not certain to me that the things that I care about in terms of international water and sanitation, cannabis reform, flood insurance, climate change, transportation safety — I’m not certain that the best way to make a contribution to that is in Congress.”

The bow-tie-wearing, bike-pin-wearing progressive represents Oregon’s 3rd District, one of the safest blue seats in the House. In 2022, he won his 14th full term with 70 percent of the vote.

His political career began at 24, when he won a seat in the Oregon legislature. Throughout, he earned a reputation as a warrior for liberal causes. In 1996, he won a special House election to succeed Democrat Ron Wyden, who had become a senator.

In an interview with CQ Roll Call four years ago, Blumenauer questioned whether Congress could address the nation’s most significant problems. “It’s fascinating to me that all of these things that we’re working on, continue to be really big problems. And Congress … is not sort of lurching to fill the bill,” he said.

Blumenauer is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, serving on the Health Subcommittee and as ranking Democrat on the Trade Subcommittee.

In a statement released Monday, Blumenauer looked back on his career and his commitment to “creating livable communities where people are safe, healthy, and economically secure.

“This mission has guided my involvement in Congress on a wide range of issues. I may best be known in Portland for work on light rail, streetcars, and bicycles. But our work also included critical issues of war and peace, championing the fight to end the failed war on drugs, helping to write the Affordable Care Act, rescuing independent restaurants, food and farm policy, animal welfare, and writing the single largest investment in renewable energy in history,’’ he said.

After his current term ends in January 2025, he intends to work to address the problems facing Portland, including widespread public drug use.

“I look forward to continuing championing livable communities starting right here in Portland and being a resource and a partner for the next generation,’’ he said in his statement.

Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., a Virginia Democrat, praised Blumenauer as “one of the toughest, most thoughtful members” and cited his leadership on cannabis overhaul, trade and climate issues.

Fellow Oregon Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici called Blumenauer “a mentor and a friend” and said the Portland region, the state and the nation have benefited from his leadership.

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