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Democrats have been forced to pour millions of dollars into an Oregon race to defend Rep. Pete DeFazio against a GOP contender and U.S. Army hero who has run an effective campaign.
Sensing an opportunity to steal a seat in an election year where Democrats, according to polling, are more likely to retain control of the House, Republicans have spent more than $3 million on behalf of Alek Skarlatos, 28, who rose to fame as one of three American soldiers who thwarted a suspected terrorist attack aboard a train in France in 2015.
“Over the past month, Portland Democrats and the national political press have both made a shocking discovery: This November, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) could lose the congressional seat he’s held since 1987 to a Republican who’s never before won election,” Willamette Week reported late last month.
At the time, Democratic and Republican organizations had spent more than $3 million on each candidate’s race, on par to make it the most expensive U.S. congressional race in the state’s history.
“In recent weeks, Politico and The Washington Post have gawked at the novelty: A fresh-faced military veteran could steal a seat from a Democratic stalwart. In cobalt-blue Oregon, of all places!” Willamette Week added.
A resident of Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, the seat DeFazio holds and Skarlatos wants, told the outlet he’s not surprised that it’s competitive this year.
Longtime district resident and Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle said only DeFazio’s political instincts have, thus far, made his seat look safer than it really is. She pointed out that the district spans Oregon’s South Coast timber country, which as been economically devastated due to environmental regulations, and a pair of left-leaning college towns, Eugene and Springfield, resulting in a nearly 50-50 split in voter registration.
And for his part, Skarlatos — a former Army National Guard soldier and Afghanistan war veteran who played himself in a Clint Eastwood film about the Paris train incident — has made revitalizing the district’s timber industry a priority.
He released a campaign video in early September titled, “Oregon is burning,” in which he noted that his Democratic opponent has “been in office longer than I’ve been alive.”
In the ad, he blasted DeFazio for being “proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal” which he notes will, according to economic analyses, “plunge many Oregon families into poverty” along with millions of others around the country.
“Isn’t it time we had someone represent Oregon’s 4th District who actually lives here, understands our values and won’t sell our industries up the river for their New York socialist friends?” Skarlatos said, noting that DeFazio “lives in D.C. on a yacht.”
“Instead of lighting our industries on fire, I’ll be the one putting out the flames, and making sure they stay out,” he added.
DeFazio “has lost jobs in for our district, he loses industry in our district, and he’s lost our middle class,” Skarlatos said as he walked through what appeared to be a lumber mill.
During a Fox News interview in September, Skarlatos also said he believes that Democratic indifference about the ongoing violent rioting and protests in cities like Portland are turning residents towards Republicans.
“Well I think people see the direction the Democrat Party is heading and I don’t think it’s so much the riots as people see the riots and then see that the Democrats are the same party, they want to take away your guns and defund the police at the same time,” he said.
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