Three Republicans file to challenge DeFazio
Senior Staff Writer
Three candidates have filed to run in the Republican primary for the U.S. House 4th District seat that Democrat Peter DeFazio of Springfield has held for 32 years.
One of the Republicans is in the primary race for the first time. Two are scientists. All are pro-life and support gun rights and term limits.
Cave Junction chemist Art Robinson has won the Republican nomination for the seat five times only to go on to lose in the general election each time.
Albany insurance agent Jo Rae Perkins said she gave up a lucrative career as a financial adviser because she believes she is destined to hold a seat in Congress.
Nelson Ijih, a computer scientist and entrepreneur from Eugene, said DeFazio’s been in office since he was 6 years old and he thinks it’s time for a change. In fact, he doesn’t think anyone should serve more than two terms in Congress.
In alphabetical order, here’s a summary of what each of the candidates told The News-Review about his or her run for office:
Nelson IjihIjih is the owner of BlockMint Technologies, which develops blockchain applications. It’s a new technology that stores digital information and allows business to be conducted in a decentralized way. Cryptocurrency may be the best known application of blockchain technology.
Ijih said Republicans need to move past talking points and and provide real solutions to real problems. For example, he wants to change an accredited investor law that mandates investors in small businesses and startups make $200,000 a year or hold $1 million in assets.
He wants to limit both congressional terms and campaign donations.
“If I win and I go in, I want to advocate for terminating my job in two terms or less, because my background is really engineering. I don’t want to be a politician,” Ijih said.
He said limiting campaign financing is critical in order to ensure fair elections.
“Ninety-one percent of the time, whoever raised the most money wins,” he said.
Ijih is 37 and immigrated to America from Nigeria when he was 21 under the visa lottery system approved by President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s.
He said he favors legal immigration, but he also said every country has a right to secure its own borders.
“If the U.S. deemed it necessary to build a border wall then yes, absolutely, I support a border wall. And if U.S. deemed to put fences there or whatever, yes. Because every other country they also have rights to secure their borders the way they see fit. It is not a racial issue ... it’s not a racist agenda,” he said.
Ijih said he’s still learning about timber policy, but said he would support the timber industry in Congress, and the policies people in that industry recommend.
“Humans need saving more than the environment,” he said.
Ijih said he would like to be a true proxy for the district’s voters, and he wants to send mass text messages to them asking them to vote up or down on the legislation he’s about to vote on.
“I envision that our democracy should be interactive,” he said.
Jo Rae PerkinsPerkins is making her third run for the Republican nomination for this seat. She lost to Robinson in 2016 and 2018, but said she’s got a different strategy this time around. She doesn’t want to reveal her playbook, she said, because her primary opponents would then know her strategy.
Perkins said she really wants to push back on federal regulations. She believes Congress has turned over too much power to unelected bureaucrats, who are now making the rules. That’s making for convoluted laws in Perkins’ view. A good law, she said, is a simple law.
“The federal government is way too big, way too big. It was never meant to be as bloated as it is,” she said.
Her approach to federal timber policy is to get the federal government off the land. She said it’s unconstitutional for them to own it.
“Let’s get it back in the hands of Oregonians so that we can properly take care of our forests,” she said.
Timber, she said, is a renewable resource and a crop.
Perkins believes immigration policy needs to be improved, and she favors building a wall at the border with Mexico.
“I love immigrants, I think it’s amazing, but come in my front door. Don’t sneak in my back door,” she said.
Perkins said she is a 100% supporter of gun rights, and proposals to ban assault weapons are a farce. She said more people are killed in highway accidents than are killed by guns, and yet we aren’t banning cars.
“We have the right to defend ourselves. I cannot carry a cop with me. The police cannot get there fast enough, right? So we need to be able to protect our families and protect our things,” she said.
She said she walked away from a financial planning career in which she made good money because of her passion for joining Congress, while she said Robinson sees joining Congress as more of an interruption to his scientific work.
“I changed my life completely because I know this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.
Art RobinsonRobinson is a former Oregon Republican Party chairman and president and research director of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in Cave Junction. His name was reportedly floated as a possible national science advisor to President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017.
Some of his science-related projects have garnered significant media attention, including a controversial petition he started to oppose political efforts to curtail carbon emissions, which he said would be harmful to human beings. Robinson asserts it was signed by 31,000 scientists and engineers. Critics said the authenticity of the names wasn’t verified, and that Star Wars characters and other prank names were on the list and that only a small percentage of climate scientists were on the list.
A 2014 project in which Robinson’s institute sent 500,000 letters to Oregonians asking for urine samples for genetic research on aging also made headlines.
Robinson thinks Congress could use a good scientist. In fact, he thinks we’d be better off if a lot more people creating federal legislation were scientists. Politicians look for ways to benefit from problems, while scientists look for ways to solve them, he said.
He said if elected, he wants to fill his congressional office not with political aides but with people who are knowledgeable about the issues. For example he’d like to have people who work in the logging industry working in his office and sharing information with East Coast representatives who don’t know anything about it.
“Can you imagine what happens if an Oregon timber faller throws one of those 36-inch saws over his shoulder and walks through the halls of Congress. They will never forget,” he said.
Robinson, who home-schooled his children, said one of his priorities is on education. He said the only schools Congress controls are those in Washington, D.C., and it should make them a model for the nation by boosting teacher salaries and stopping education spending outside the classroom.
Robinson said he never says negative things about his Republican opponents in the primary, though he did say he believes he’s more qualified than either of them, and DeFazio.
“Leave aside the politics, the guy has no resume,” he said of DeFazio.
Robinson consistently wins the five rural counties in the district, but DeFazio has carried more populous Lane County. Robinson said he believes he’s got a chance at beating DeFazio this time around, because while other Republicans did worse in 2018 than they had in previous years, he did better.
“I think that the things we have that we can do and the things we have learned can put us past DeFazio if it’s a good Republican year, and that depends on the president,” he said.
Robinson supports term limits, but said voters don’t need to worry about him serving more than a term or two.
“I’m automatically term limited. I’m 77 years old,” he said.
Roseburg’s Alek Skarlatos has also announced he intends to run for the seat, but he hasn’t yet filed with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, a requirement to appear on the ballot. He has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and formed a campaign committee.