Alek Skarlatos announced Thursday he plans to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield.
Skarlatos cited federal timber policy as his top reason for running. He said attempts to protect the environment by reducing logging have backfired, creating forest fires that pour carbon into the atmosphere.
“Peter DeFazio took office I believe in 1987, and over his tenure he’s pretty much overseen the downfall of the entire timber industry, has done nothing about it, and the economy and the environment are worse off because of it,” Skarlatos said.
Skarlatos will first have to face longtime candidate Art Robinson in the Republican primary. Robinson is on his sixth run for the office. He has consistently won Douglas County but lost the district, which skews to the left because it includes Lane County.
Robinson is more conservative, whereas Skarlatos is more of a libertarian, Skarlatos said. He cited marijuana laws as an example.
“I’m not against marijuana. I’m not necessarily for it either, but I believe that people should be able to make that choice on their own,” he said.
He said Robinson isn’t bringing anything new to the table.
“I just think he’s a little bit too extreme for my taste. That being said, I do agree with him on a lot of issues, and it’s just trying to appeal to the voters. Honestly, I just don’t think anybody’s really given him a run for his money in a long, long time,” he said.
This is not Skarlatos’ first run for office. In 2018, he ran unsuccessfully for Douglas County commissioner. In that race he garnered 35% of the vote, coming in second place to Tom Kress, who won the seat with 38% of the vote.
Skarlatos is perhaps best known for his role in thwarting a terrorist attempt on a Paris-bound train in 2015.
Skarlatos and two of his friends took action after a gunman armed with an AK-47, a handgun and a box cutter emerged from a train bathroom, then fired shots on the train, which was headed to Paris from Amsterdam.
Since then, Skarlatos has received multiple medals, been awarded the French Legion of Honor and taken third place on the ABC program “Dancing with the Stars.” He played himself in a Clint Eastwood movie about the train incident called “The 15:17 to Paris.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, his experience on that train, Skarlatos is a staunch supporter of gun rights. He noted that despite tough gun control in Europe, the would-be terrorist was able to arm himself with an AK-47 and a handgun.
“Terrorists still blow people up, they run people over with trucks, they stab people. Evil’s evil, and banning an inanimate object isn’t going to change any of that,” he said.
On immigration, Skarlatos believes in closing the border.
“I mean we can’t have people coming to this country that we don’t know who they are or where they’re coming from,” he said.
On health care, he’s opposed to socialized medicine of any kind. He said safety nets are needed, but he believes those are already in place.
On climate change, he said he doesn’t know if climate change is man-made, but returned to the timber issue, saying forest fires dumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere is worse than logging.
“I don’t care if you’re a tree-hugging hippie or you’re a log-everything timber industry magnate. We need more responsible forest management and both sides need to compromise and take a serious look at this issue and how to solve it,” he said.
Skarlatos is a Roseburg High School graduate and a former Roseburg Costco employee. He spent five years as an Oregon Army National Guardsman with Charlie Company.