After over 34 years in Congress, Peter DeFazio is facing unprecedented competition from 28-year-old political novice, Alek Skarlatos, of Roseburg, according to an Oregonian article posted Sunday. Skarlatos became recognized internationally as a hero in 2015, when he, along with two other U.S. soldiers on a French train stopped an attempted terrorist attack.
After losing the election for Douglas County Commission in 2018, Skarlatos has made a comeback, raising $3.9 million for his congressional race. The most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission show DeFazio has raised $3.2 million, only $1.3 of which came in during this past quarter. Skarlatos raised $2.4 million that quarter.
The biggest donors to the Skarlatos campaign are the National Republican Committee and WinRed, a fundraising site that helps to facilitate far reaching small donations to conservative candidates, and according to the Oregonian, it will be the most expensive congressional race in the history of the district. The 4th District includes Benton, Lane and Douglas counties, as well as the southern coastal counties of Coos and Curry, and large parts of Linn and Josephine counties.
An article published by The Cook Report, an influential political publication said, “A month out, both parties now regard the race as competitive and are spending accordingly.” Politico, another political news report was quoted saying that DeFazio “has found himself in the race of his life.”
At a debate at the Eugene City Club, Skarlatos argued that political change is overdue in the 4th District, pointing out that DeFazio “has been in office longer than I’ve been alive. He’s had 33 years to run his district into the ground.”
On the other hand, DeFazio said that Skarlatos is not being straightforward with voters, particularly on issues surrounding healthcare. Skarlatos has said he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, yet vows to make more affordable health care and prescriptions available. These aren’t the only differences between the candidates: they disagree on guns, the handling of the pandemic and wildfires, just to name a few.
Of the pandemic, Skarlatos said, “I think the federal government has pretty much done all it can, we need to figure out how we’re going to live with the virus. We need to figure out a long-term solution. We can’t stay locked down forever and continue to bail out businesses.” DeFazio believes that small businesses across the nation are in need of another round of financial assistance.
When it comes to wildfires, Skarlatos blames poor forest management, and a lack of logging and controlled burns. DeFazio says climate change is to blame, creating drought and changing winds.
While national news outlets focus on Skarlatos’ gaining lead, experts closer to home aren’t as concerned. Dan Lavey, a Portland political consultant, told The Oregonian “The fact that DeFazio is running TV ads in the Portland market tells you that he’s nervous. But I don’t think there’s any chance of him losing.”
Generally, DeFazio is seen as a hard–working legislator, and he chairs the House Transportation Committee. John Horvick, of DHM Research in Portland told The Oregonian, “If it wasn’t Peter DeFazio, I think it would be more competitive.”
The race may be left to whether the voters of the 4th District view Skarlatos’ alignment with the policies of President Donald Trump to be overall a good or a bad thing. While DeFazio has tried to scare off voters by linking Skarlatos to Trump, according to Christopher Stout, professor of Political science at Oregon State, Trump almost won in the 4th District in 2016. Either way, it will be a close race to the finish for DeFazio and Skarlatos.
By Kyra Young