Republican Alek Skarlatos and Democratic incumbent Rep. Peter DeFazio each beat out the competition in Tuesday night’s primary election.
That means they’ll square off in the November general election for the U.S. Congressional District 4 seat.
Skarlatos, a young Roseburg veteran best known for his role in thwarting a would-be terrorist on a Paris-bound train in 2015, beat out Eugene computer engineer Nelson Ijih by a vote of 86.56% to 12.53%, according to voting results from the Oregon Secretary of State, as of 4:35 a.m. Wednesday.
He has a tougher fight ahead.
DeFazio has served as the district’s representative for 33 years and is the head of the powerful House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
DeFazio handily defeated his primary challenger, community organizer Doyle Canning of Eugene, by a vote of 84.22% to 14.93%.
Skarlatos said Tuesday evening he’s very excited, and the primary vote shows his campaign has momentum he can use in the general election race.
“I think it’s going to be a very tight race. Obviously we’re going to try to win the moderates on the commonsense issues we’ve been talking about so far, and I think we’re really just going to run the same campaign we’ve been running to this point,” Skarlatos said.
He said independent voters really haven’t had a home to this point, and he wants to give them one.
“Peter DeFazio has gone incredibly far left and I think it’s really going to hurt him in the general. Most people don’t want socialized health care and things like that,” he said.
Skarlatos also said he’s had small-dollar donations from across the country and believes he’ll need it going up against DeFazio’s campaign, which has significant PAC funding.
DeFazio’s campaign released a statement Tuesday evening calling his primary win a “resounding reelection victory.”
“I am grateful to Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District for their continued steadfast support for the work that I’ve been doing to represent our shared values in Washington, D.C.,” DeFazio said.
“I pledge to continue to fight for issues that matter the most to Oregon Families and to help our country move through and recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
He also said he would continue to advance his 21st-century transportation plan, which he said would help the country rebuild its economy and create millions of high-earning family-wage jobs.
“The current crisis has even further illuminated failures of the current administration and the dire need to expand affordable health care and economic opportunities to everyone in this country,” he said.
DeFazio’s campaign said Skarlatos was hand-picked by the Republican party elite and propped up by out-of-state special interests who have funded attacks against DeFazio since February 2019 and will flood the district with dark money in the general election race.
District 4 covers most of Southwestern Oregon. It includes Douglas, Coos, Curry, Lane and Linn counties, along with parts of Benton and Josephine counties.
In the Republican primary for the seat, Skarlatos focused on increased forest management, as well as gun rights, closing the border to immigration and opposition to socialized medicine of any kind.
Ijih had campaigned on issues including education reform, term limits, campaign finance reform and consumer tax incentives for carbon capture.
Ijih said in an email to The News-Review he isn’t sure if he’ll run for office again, but he will continue to serve Oregon communities as an educator and create good jobs in the state as he has in the past.
“I have a firm belief that American democracy can only be renewed when ordinary citizens come off from the sidelines and participate,” he wrote.
He said he thanked everyone who believed in him and his proposals.
“I really appreciate the awesome people of this district who I’ve had the honor of meeting and discussing our common desire to make Oregon the best State in the Union,” he said.
In the Democratic primary, DeFazio focused on his experience, including work on wastewater infrastructure, harbor maintenance, jetty repair and fisheries protection.
Canning had campaigned on environmental issues including climate change. She had argued for creating jobs in wind energy on the coast, and in regenerative forestry.
Canning said in a statement she had called DeFazio to congratulate him on his win.
“Our campaign was historic,” Canning said in a statement Tuesday evening. “We mounted the first challenge in Oregon’s 4th District in 33 years.”
She said DeFazio outspent her by a 6-to-1 margin.
“We ran a vigorous challenge with no corporate PAC money, a lot of heart, and grassroots power — in one of the most terrible moments for our country, we held fast to our vision,” she said.
Douglas County Republican votes chose Skarlatos by a margin of 88.52% to Ijih’s 10.88%.
Democratic voters in the county chose DeFazio by a margin of 81.45% to Canning’s 16.54%.