Cave Junction chemist Art Robinson wants to make a fifth try for the Congressional seat held by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, but it appears he will face at least three challengers in the May 2018 Republican primary.
Robinson, 75, a former Oregon Republican Party chairman, has won Douglas County every time he’s run, but lost the district-wide vote to DeFazio. DeFazio has served U.S. House District 4 for 30 years. He has not yet filed for re-election.
Two other Republican candidates have already filed. They are Jo Rae Perkins of Albany, who ran unsuccessfully against Robinson for the Republican nomination in 2016, and newcomer Stefan Strek, a 27-year-old from Eugene. It also appears Curry County Commissioner Court Boice plans to throw his hat in the ring. Boice, a second cousin of Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice, has not yet filed but has launched a campaign website.
Robinson said he’s optimistic about his chances against DeFazio in 2018, because he won five of seven counties in the district in 2016, and gained 20,000 more voters than in 2014. He said he wishes his Republican challengers well, and “we’ll see what the good voters want to do.”
His priority if elected would be to help free the people from restrictive regulations he said unfairly burden them.
“The Republicans stand for constitutional, smaller government, and the Democrats stand for a larger government any way they can get it,” he said.
He said he’s a strong advocate for Second Amendment rights.
“The Second Amendment is a freedom we have, and we should be able to exercise it, and this country’s better off when we do,” he said.
He also said he would work for increasing timber harvests. He said DeFazio has not done enough to protect timber interests, and that Josephine County recently lost its last lumber mill.
“People should be able to use their natural resources, but Mr. DeFazio has never been someone who helped our timber industry. He really only helped to drive it down because that is what his political constituents seemed to want him to do,” he said.
He said in order to improve the economy, it’s important to get the “administrative state off the backs of the American people. Every time an American turns around, he’s got a license or a permit or a lawyer activated by somebody trying to prevent him from doing his work.”
On veterans issues, Robinson said he would like to see veterans given cards that enabled them to obtain medical care wherever they wanted, not just at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
Robinson has been in the news for a variety of reasons over the years. He received attention in 2014 after his family’s organization, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, mailed out half a million requests for urine samples. Robinson said Tuesday he and his family have collected 5,000 samples. He said they’ve been using the samples to research chemical markers in urine that can predict whether the person will develop heart disease or breast cancer.
In March of this year, a New Yorker magazine said President Donald Trump’s administration had considered Robinson as a possible science adviser. Robinson said he was flattered, but that no one from Trump’s administration contacted him.
During the 2012 campaign, Robinson’s son Matthew Robinson switched parties to run against DeFazio in the primaries.
Strek, 27, who works as a clerk in the University of Oregon’s financial aid department, ran unsuccessfully for Eugene mayor in 2016, receiving less than 2 percent of the vote. Strek is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, and said he backs the president 110 percent. That sets him apart from his own parents, who Strek said “bleed blue.”
He believes he’d have a better shot at winning the District 4 race because people he spoke to outside Eugene city limits were more supportive of his mayoral candidacy. That led him to think the Congressional district would be better for him, demographically.
“I figure go for the bigger pool and the bigger office, and that would have more success,” he said.
Strek listed defending Second Amendment rights as his top priority, and said he wants to prevent gun control regulations passed in California from spreading to other states.
“I don’t believe it’s constitutional for states to infringe on individual citizens’ ability to possess weapons. That should be just guaranteed,” he said.
Strek said he wanted to improve health care by ensuring people can get medications they need, and by pushing for patients’ rights. He also said the cost of malpractice insurance and frivolous lawsuits is too high.
Strek said he hopes events will be scheduled that will give him a chance to debate the other candidates on the issues.
“I’m hoping that we have a lot more open discussion within the GOP,” he said.
Asked why he believes he’d be a better candidate than his competitors, Strek said, “To my knowledge Art Robinson has a warehouse full of urine, and I don’t.”
He said he thinks Perkins is a “nice lady,” but seems “a little off the wall” because he said she believes in conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his infowars.com website.
“That’s not going to get too much traction in Washington,” he said.
He said DeFazio seems like a nice guy, but one who’s “getting up there” and seems ready for retirement.
Strek said he’s young, single and has no family to distract him, all of which he said would be assets.
Perkins is a former chairwoman of the Linn County Republican Party, who served from 2009 to 2012. She ran for Congress in 2016, and won 32 percent of the vote in the 2016 primary, compared with 68 percent for Robinson. She plans to run a higher profile campaign this time around, and said she absolutely will win a seat in Congress.
“I believe that I’m supposed to be there,” she said.
Perkins, 61, is also a Trump fan. She said when she heard Trump’s campaign speech, she looked at her husband and said, “Who gave Donald Trump my campaign brochure? It was like he was reading straight out of it. I was blown away.”
Perkins said her strength is that as a “micro-business” owner, she understands main street America. Perkins has been a realtor and a certified financial planner. Her husband is a carpet installation contractor.
“I think we need a main street American who understands that the money the government takes is not the government’s money. It belongs to the people,” she said.
Major concerns for Perkins are the national debt and immigration policy. She wants to see an end to runaway federal spending, by increasing the role of the states.
Perkins wants to see Trump’s promised wall built between the U.S. and Mexico, to keep illegal immigrants out.
“If they’re still pushing back on that in a year, I’ll be there to say let’s get this built. Let’s work on taking care of those who cross the border and also those who overstay their visas,” she said.
She also agrees with Robinson that veterans should be able to choose their own doctors.
“If they want to go to the VA, they should have that option, but if they want to see another doctor, that option should be there for them,” she said.
Perkins also believes the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service should not own land, and said that land should be turned over to the states.
As for Strek’s dig about Alex Jones, Perkins said she thinks Jones is either off the wall or hitting the nail on the head. She said sometimes Jones is right on the money, but his word isn’t gospel. She said she listens to and reads about all sides of an event before making up her mind about it, and she’s not a conspiracy theorist.
Perkins said her values are pretty well aligned to Robinson’s and Boice’s. But she’s convinced she’s the better candidate. Boice will probably raise the most money, but he has only been commissioner for one year, she said. She said Robinson has shown he’s unable to beat DeFazio. She sees Strek’s youth as a liability.
Boice could not be reached for comment Tuesday. His website stresses the importance of restoring timber jobs and managing public lands for sustainable timber harvests. The website also includes a promise to uphold the U.S. Constitution, with particular emphasis on the First and Second Amendments.