Rep. Peter DeFazio (D)
Elected: 1986, 12th term.
Born: May 27, 1947, Needham, MA .
Education: Tufts U., B.A. 1969, U. of OR, M.S. 1977.
Family: Married (Myrnie).
Military career: Air Force, 1967–71.
Elected office: Lane Cnty. Bd. of Commissioners, 1982–86.
Professional Career: Dist. dir., U.S. Rep. James Weaver, 1977–82.
The congressman from the 4th District is Peter DeFazio (da-FAH-zee-oh), a Democrat first elected in 1986. He grew up in Massachusetts, came to Oregon for graduate school, was a bike mechanic, and went to work for 4th District Rep. Jim Weaver, a Democrat. In 1982, DeFazio moved to Springfield and won a seat on the county commission. When Weaver retired in 1986, DeFazio won his House seat in a tight race. He beat Bill Bradbury 34%-33% in the primary and won the general election 54%-46%. DeFazio has compiled a record that seems to satisfy both Eugene and the rest of the district: He’s liberal on most issues, and moderate on social issues. An original founder of the loose-knit Progressive Caucus, he has not been shy to express his anger that millions of working Americans suffered during the boom years before 2008. He opposed the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement and later was a leader in the fight to defeat normal trade relations with China.
|Peter DeFazio (D)||275,143||(82%)||($471,179)|
|Jaynee Germond (CNP)||43,133||(13%)|
|Mike Beilstein (Green)||13,162||(4%)|
|Peter DeFazio (D)||119,366||(99%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (61%), 2002 (64%), 2000 (68%), 1998 (70%), 1996 (66%), 1994 (67%), 1992 (71%), 1990 (86%), 1988 (72%), 1986 (54%)
DeFazio often takes idiosyncratic views. During the period of GOP control of Congress, he offered a specific proposal to fix Social Security, unlike most Democrats. He called for removing the payroll deduction limitation that benefits the top wage earners. He took the lead in the House effort to permit airline pilots to carry guns in the cockpit, and although the Bush administration opposed it, DeFazio won by an astonishing 250-175. The Senate later followed suit. After catastrophic wildfires in the summer of 2002, DeFazio teamed with Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden to seek a middle ground to speed the thinning of brush in the forests; DeFazio’s environmental allies denounced him as a turncoat, but his proposal was enacted.
When Democrats won control of the House in 2006, DeFazio took the influential post of chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee. He called for taxing oil companies, rather than imposing a gas tax on consumers, after high gas prices prompted people to drive less, with a resulting falloff in revenues in the highway trust fund. He also criticized loopholes in the highway-safety law that were blamed for inadequate oversight of drug and alcohol use by truck drivers.
DeFazio has routinely won re-election by more than 60% in a marginal district. Against former FBI agent Jim Feldkamp, who favored more local control of forests and spent a total of $1 million in back-to-back challenges in 2004 and 2006, DeFazio got 61% and 62%, respectively. The vote was close in the southern counties of Curry, Douglas, and Josephine, but DeFazio exceeded two-thirds of the vote in Lane County. After GOP Sen. Bob Packwood resigned in 1995, DeFazio ran to succeed him. In the primary, he had far less money than Democratic Rep. Ron Wyden. His opposition to gun control and NAFTA provided clear contrasts to Wyden, but Wyden won 50%-44% and went on to prevail in the general election. In the 2002 election, DeFazio considered running again for the Senate, this time against Republican Gordon Smith. But he said he would run only with the “strongest possible support” from Democratic leaders. They in turn declined to help unless he showed he could raise a significant amount of money and get traction in the early polls. DeFazio opted to remain in the House. Should he ever decide not to seek re-election, this might well be a seriously contested seat.