DeFazio Has Faced His Closest Race in Decades

This is the 17th race for the U.S. House of Representatives for 73-yearold Peter DeFazio of Springfield, OR. His career has led him to be the current chair of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committeemaking him a perennial favorite. 

This year, DeFazio’s main opponent, 28-year-old Alek Skarlatos of Roseburg, comes with no political experience. The Afghanistan War veteran, Paris-train hero, star from Dancing with Stars, movie actor of his own life story, and real estate investor has taken this seat in the House from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic” for the first time since 1986, according to the Cook Political Report. 

In this purple district which includes Coos, Curry, Benton, Douglas, Lane, Linn, and Josephine counties, and which Hillary Clinton won by only 552 votes in 2016, DeFazio said to KGW8 news that he has had to fight for every Independent and Moderate Republican vote. 

Both DeFazio and Skarlatos raised substantial amounts for their campaigns, according to OpenSecrets.org, however while 56% of DeFazio’s contributions came from within Oregon, only 32% of Skarlatos’s contributions were found locally. 

While the name recognition and the voting record stands as DeFazio credentials and is endorsed by 25 organizations, focusing on unions, environmental, health and reproductive health. Skarlatos is relying on 23 endorsements from Republican Oregon politicians at various levels, military personnel, economists, and talk show hosts.  

On an Oct. 30 Straight Talk with KGW8 news, the candidates drew their differences based on their stands on various issues. The Affordable Act Care Act (ACA) spurred Skarlatos’ criticism as he has said in the Voter’s Guide he believes that health care is not the government responsibility and should be subject to free market practices. DeFazio although concurring with the ACA for the time, co-sponsored Pramila Jayapol (Rep WA), Medicare for All bill in 2019. 

On the minimum wage the candidates differed as well, Skarlatos doesn’t believe in federal minimum wage, which according to him should be up to each state. DeFazio in 2015 wrote a bill raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour. 

The voting record of DeFazio shows his support for woman right to choose, while according to his answers on Voter’s Guide Skarlatos opts for illegalizing abortion except for cases of incest, rape, and endangerment to mother’s health. 

On KGW, DeFazio stands on his record when asking for voters to re-elect him. 

“I don’t go to one part of my district and say I’m going to protect your health care and then go on Fox News and say I want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” DeFazio said. “I don’t go to one part of my district and say I want to help you folks out and then go on right-wing media and say I’d cut the minimum wage.” 

Skarlatos doesn’t see things as cut-and-dried. 

“At the end of the day, he’s had 34 years to affect change in Oregon’s 4th District and as a result we are the poorest congressional district in the state,” Skarlatos said to KGW. “We have an incredibly high homeless rate. In fact, Eugene city limits has the highest homeless rate per capita in the country. We have high child abuse rates and unemployment rates.” 

Joanna Rosinska