President Biden touches down in Oregon, will tout prescription price relief for seniors, raise money for Tina Kotek

President Joe Biden touched down in Oregon Friday evening for his second visit of the year.

He’s here to tout prescription drug price relief for seniors, raise money for Democratic candidate for governor Tina Kotek and try to ignite the Democratic base in the Portland area as Oregon Democrats face tough races for governor, Congress and the statehouse.

Ballots will begin arriving at Oregon voters’ homes in less than a week.

Air Force One, with Biden aboard, landed on a Portland tarmac at 6:13 pm A black limousine waited to whisk him to his next event, a phone-banking event with labor union members and three Democratic members of Congress.

After deboarding, the president waved once to the crowd and greeted people including US Sen. Jeff Merkley. The president also carried a small white paper bag from which he pulled a cupcake that he presented to US Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, whose birthday was Friday. Biden climbed into the limo and was on his way to Southeast Portland at 6:32 pm

Police and transportation officials cautioned that his visit will cause intermittent short road closures, TriMet line disruptions and other inconveniences designed to keep the president safe.

Portland marks the final stop on the president’s three-state visit to the West. In Colorado on Wednesday, he designated the first national monument of his administration and called for protecting “treasured lands” that tell the story of America. In Southern California, he touted infrastructure investments and played up his administration’s efforts to tame inflation and help Americans afford their bills on Friday, much like he is expected to do in Portland at midday Saturday.

Unbeknownst to the president, Portland police were investigating a fatal shooting Friday in the Lloyd Center area that happened about two hours before he landed, then were also called on to investigate an officer-involved shooting outside a downtown convenience store about nine blocks from the luxury hotel where Biden is scheduled to spend the night. He was many miles away at the Southeast Portland union hall when the police shooting took place.

At the union event, held at SEIU headquarters near Cleveland High, Biden was joined by Sens. Ron Wyden and Merkley, House member Bonamici and governor hopeful Kotek. The president, who brought Sesame donuts to the event and ate one of them and a portion of another, spoke to multiple Oregon voters at the phone-banking event. He spent an extended amount of time on one call, pacing around the room as he held an iPhone to his ear.

At one point during his nearly hour-long session with union members, he grabbed Kotek’s hand and walked with her to the center of the room, as union members cheered.

“What a governor does matters,” he said.

State party officials said volunteers at the union hall made more than 10,000 calls to Oregon voters while Biden was present.

“President Biden understands just how much is at stake this November: defending reproductive rights, protecting our Democracy, standing up for working families, and so much more,” state party chair KC Hansen said. “This is the most important election in Oregon in decades … It’s all hands on deck to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

The White House said that at the president’s only public appearance in Portland on Saturday, the first day of open enrollment for Medicare, he will “highlight the historic cost-saving provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that will be reflected in Medicare plans seniors will shop for.”

Biden is unpopular with many moderates and some Democrats, although his national approval ratings have rebounded to 43% from their low point in late July. That makes it tricky for him to turn campaign appearances into gold for his party ahead of what could be dicey midterm elections for Democrats.

Oregon’s two Democrats in the tightest races for Congress, emergency response manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the 5th District and lawmaker Andrea Salinas in the 6th, did not recruit Biden to appear with them in their swing districts.

Biden’s public and private appearances on this trip are all in Multnomah County, where he outpolled President Trump 79% to 18% in 2020.

Biden’s first visit to Oregon since becoming president came in April, when he appeared at Portland International Airport and gave a 30-minute speech touting hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars’ worth of infrastructure improvements for Oregon.

Oregonian photojournalist Dave Killen contributed reporting, as did designated pool reporter Tyler Pager of the Washington Post.

– Betsy Hammond; betsyhammond@oregonian.com; @OregonPolEds

Leave a Comment