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Endorsement: DeFazio Still Has That Fire

-Despite Gridlock, Longtime Congressman Gets Results-

Peter DeFazio and Art Robinson would never admit it, but in some ways they’re a lot alike. They’re both quite a bit smarter than average, they both think for themselves and, though they come to their conclusions from different directions, they agree on a number of important issues such as war and privacy. But it’s DeFazio, the Democratic incumbent seeking his 15th term in Oregon’s 4th District, who is clearly the better choice to represent Southwest Oregon in Congress.

Election 2014

DeFazio, 67, entered the House in 1987 after a term on the Lane County Board of Commissioners. He now ranks 20th in seniority, and will climb a few notches if re-elected. He’s the ranking minority member of the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He’s served under five presidents and on occasion has been an irritant to all of them.

DeFazio represents what ought to be a swing district, with large Republican majorities in the south balanced by Democratic strongholds in Lane and Benton counties. He’s held on by practicing a custom blend of populist and progressive politics, and also by delivering material benefits to his district. In Eugene, DeFazio can speak of his legislation to reduce interest rates on student loans. In Port Orford, he can speak of having secured federal funds for dredging the small ports of the south coast.

He shows no signs of slowing down. DeFazio wants to return to Washington, D.C., to work on transportation funding issues — he’s a strong proponent of spending on infrastructure to create jobs and facilitate commerce, while not incidentally turning Oregon into a state that gets more federal money for roads and bridges than it pays in transportation taxes. And he wants to ensure completion of his biggest legislative project, a bill to boost employment and county revenues through increased logging on some federally managed Oregon & California Railroad forests, while adding environmental protections for the remainder of the lands.

Robinson sees DeFazio’s long tenure as a symptom of rot. The Republican nominee excoriates DeFazio as a cog in a self-perpetuating political machine that serves its own interests at the expense of ordinary citizens. His critique would be more persuasive if DeFazio weren’t a relentless foe of those labeled by Theodore Roosevelt as “the malefactors of great wealth,” proposing, among other things, lifting the income cap on Social Security taxes and imposing a fee on speculative financial transactions.

Robinson, 70, is running against DeFazio for the third time. His debut was in 2010, when tea-party opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, reached a boil. (DeFazio was and remains critical of some aspects of Obamacare, but supported the bill.) Robinson ran again two years ago, receiving more votes but a smaller percentage of the total. In his current try Robinson has improved as a candidate, distancing himself from some of the more extreme positions he espoused earlier and gaining new stature as chairman of the Oregon Republican Party.

Robinson is a uniquely American character — an independent research chemist, publisher of a popular home-school curriculum, organizer of a global petition to sow doubts about the scientific consensus on climate change, and author of a widely read newsletter on energy-related matters. Along the way Robinson has created a broad paper trail from which DeFazio pulls quotes with gusto.

Robinson says this is unfair, claiming that provocative sound bites on issues ranging from the abusive nature of public education to the health benefits of radiation do not represent his real views. A polemicist speaks with less restraint than a politician, and in attempting to make the transition from one to the other Robinson has tempered his rhetoric. His rhetoric suggests that Robinson would find himself in the emerging libertarian-conservative wing of the House Republican caucus, generally opposed to regulation, taxation and foreign entanglements. Yet he can’t entirely disown the views he’s expressed in the past, some of which range from the unorthodox to the extreme.

Also on the ballot are Mike Beilstein, a Corvallis city councilor running as the Pacific Green Party nominee, and Libertarian Davis Chester. Beilstein ran for the same position in 2010 and has waged a visible campaign this year, calling for cuts in military spending, a single-payer health care system and less logging on public lands.

But the real contest, once again, is between DeFazio and Robinson. The length of service that Robinson decries is part of what makes DeFazio so valuable to his constituents — he’s worked himself into a position where he can get things done for the 4th District and for Oregon. The fact that he has become the longest-­serving House member in Ore­gon history is also evidence of the fact that DeFazio is skilled in practicing a brand of politics well-suited to his district. Voters should re-elect Peter DeFazio on Nov. 4.

"Rep. Peter DeFazio has worked himself into a position where he can get things done for the 4th District and for Oregon."

As Independent as Oregon.

Peter DeFazio's common-sense proposals aim to create good-paying jobs, expand access to affordable health care and develop options outside of the for-profit marketplace, restore economic and educational opportunities, hold government accountable and tip the scales of inequality back in favor of hard-working Oregonians.

Meet Peter