Matthew Robinson says, “The main reason I’m running is to promote more honesty in politics,” but that seems disingenuous to those who question his last-minute entry into the May Democratic congressional primary against Rep. Peter DeFazio.
His father, Tea Party darling and Republican congressional candidate Art Robinson, is running again this year against DeFazio, and according to an email he sent to supporters, he did not ask his son to engage in a head-to-head with DeFazio for the Democratic primary.
Matthew Robinson is a Johnny-come-lately to the Democratic Party. But that’s not the only weird thing about his campaign. He’s a nuclear engineering doctoral student at OSU and says he got all riled up when DeFazio labeled the Robinson family farm as a “survivalist compound” during the 2010 congressional campaign. Matthew insists the land his family owns in Cave Junction is nothing more than a sheep farm and the comment is an example of the dishonesty he intends to do away with.
Matthew Robinson doesn’t see how the “survivalist compound” designation came about. But there does seem to be an awful lot of odd items out on the farm. “My dad’s chemistry lab is out here,” Matthew says. “But that really doesn’t qualify it as a compound.”
The Robinson farm is home to the Robinson Curriculum, a home-schooling package Art Robinson sells because the “social and religious environment in most schools in America has deteriorated to a level of evil such that it is a threat to the spiritual, moral and mental health of each child who is forced to participate in it.”
The farm is also home to 10,000 Geiger counters, according to Matthew’s brother Josh in a student profile on the OSU website. Art Robinson worked in civil defense in the 1980s, according to Matthew, and he was contacted about the counters after a radiological monitoring program ended during the Clinton administration. Fire departments and police departments around Oregon had monitors that were headed to the dump, but according to Robinson, his father was asked if he wanted them instead and he accepted. They’re now still in storage in one of the farm buildings.
Matthew Robinson switched to the Democratic Party in August 2011, but his political stances hardly follow the liberal party line. He does not agree that contraceptives should be provided by insurance providers as part of President Obama’s health care plan, and he says he got interested in politics after being upset over government spending to alleviate a spiraling economy a few years ago. “They’re not suppose to be doing things like that,” he says.
So why is he running as a Democrat?
Although he might not be completely onboard with the party platform he doesn’t see it as a problem. “As a candidate I think you’re suppose to promote your own ideas,” he says.
But this sort of tactic — or distraction — by the Robinsons hasn’t been lost on DeFazio. In a letter responding to a request for a debate made by Robinson, DeFazio wrote: “Despite your recent registration change to the Democratic Party, you have repeatedly said you share the same values as your father.” He adds, “Art Robinson’s long-held belief that we should abolish public education, his support for additional tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and his recent statement that the most important issue in the upcoming election is not jobs, but the ‘right-to-life’ issue, are not traditional Democratic issues.”
The younger Robinson had suggested they debate on the OSU or UO campuses and as part of the same response, DeFazio asked that both Robinsons attend, pointing out that the campaigns share the same campaign manager and address, and both Robinsons share fundraising and political views.
These points were lost on the 24-year-old Robinson. “Your suggestion that my father, Art Robinson, participate in a Democratic primary debate is highly unusual,” he wrote in a March 15 letter back to DeFazio.
DeFazio also asked the debates be restricted to registered Democrats — those who can actually vote in the primary. DeFazio announced on April 3 that Matthew Robinson has declined to debate him because of the limitation.
Robinson maintains that he would not drop out if for some reason he did in fact defeat DeFazio in the Democratic primary. “It wouldn’t really be honest to let the Democrats elect me and then step aside,” he says. He adds that he and his father would separately run general election campaigns and let the voters decide in the end.