OR-06: Here's something you don't see often: Republican Mike Erickson has released an internal poll showing him leading his Democratic opponent the same week that he threatened to sue to overturn the election should he lose.
To pick apart this strange turn of events, we'll start with Erickson's survey from Cygnal, which shows him beating Democrat Andrea Salinas 44-39 in Oregon's brand new 6th District that Joe Biden would have taken 55-42. The last polls we saw from this district, which is based in the Salem area and Portland's southwestern suburbs, were both from mid-August: The GOP firm Clout Research gave Erickson an even larger 43-34 advantage, while a GBAO internal for Salinas had her up 48-45.
Despite those optimistic numbers for Republicans, though, both the Congressional Leadership Fund and NRCC have so far avoided spending here even though their opponents at the DCCC and House Majority PAC have together dropped over $1.4 million. And it's exceedingly unlikely that the GOP's two biggest House groups have steered clear of this race because they feel supremely confident, especially since a conservative organization called Take Back Oregon PAC launched a $300,000 buy this week.
Salinas' side has run several commercials focusing both on allegations that Erickson paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion in 2000 as well as stories around his 2016 arrest, and the latter is what he's focusing on in a cease-and-desist notice he sent to Salinas this week. In that letter, Erickson threatens to invoke an old state law that the Oregon Capitol Chronicle writes "prohibits knowingly making false statements about a candidate, political committee or ballot measure."
Reporter Julia Shumway explains, "If a judge determines that a candidate made a false statement that cost their opponent an election, the law states that the candidate will be removed as a nominee or elected official." But she adds, "Over several decades, Oregon courts have interpreted that law to exclude opinions or statements that could reasonably be interpreted as true." (It's not clear whether this law has ever been successfully deployed.)
Erickson's attorney, Jill Gibson, argues that the law could apply because Salinas has continued to air an ad "accusing Mike Erickson of being charged with drug possession." Gibson cited a recent story from The Oregonian in which Hood River County District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen said that the court documents that those allegations came from were incorrect.
Instead, Rasmussen and other court documents say that while police had found a pack of oxycodone in Erickson's wallet when they pulled him over for drunk driving, the candidate said they were prescribed to his wife. Ultimately, Erickson pled guilty only to driving under the influence and was never charged with felony possession. Erickson's defense attorney from six years ago subsequently said that the plea agreement "shouldn't have indicated that the felony charges were dismissed," adding, "That was a mistake on my part."
Gibson also took issue with on-screen text in the Salinas ad that read, "Pled Guilty to Drunk Driving TWICE LEGAL LIMIT," arguing, "This is false as twice the legal limit is .16% breath-alcohol content and Mr. Erickson has never been charged with this or pled guilty to this." Police records say that Erickson had blown a 0.12, above the 0.08 limit.
Salinas' campaign shrugged off Gibson's missive, saying in a statement, "Mike Erickson's threats to overturn the election if he doesn't win should raise major concerns for Oregonians who cherish democracy."