U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio says the Democrats have to win back the House in November. If Republicans and Trump keep dominating Congress and White House, the nation’s representative democracy cannot survive, the congressman says.
“It’s gotta stop, and if it doesn’t stop, I don’t think we will have another meaningful election in this country,” he tells Eugene Weekly in an interview at his downtown field office.
During a post-election conference in late January, DeFazio decided he wants to change the direction of his campaign: He is going to help win back the House of Representatives by working with a project called Red to Blue.
“I’m going go around where I can organize people and take back the House,” he says.
DeFazio represents Oregon’s fourth congressional district, which includes Coos, Douglas, Curry, Lane and Linn counties. He has taken on a large task, but he’s not the only one fighting for this change.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says. “I’ve provided support to candidates, you know, sent them a little money. But this is a focused, concentrated effort.”
The Red to Blue project originates from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which prioritizes getting blue (Democratic) representatives into the House. DeFazio is finding candidates to advocate for, based on a list from the DCCC, but he’s also come up with his own list of candidates and priorities for Oregon.
The Democrats are trying to win 40 open seats. They have targeted another 25 as vulnerable Republican incumbents, DeFazio says.
Right now, Democrats need 23 seats to win over the House.
“The objective is to win the U.S. House of Representatives from the Republicans, who are letting Trump run wild and doing everything he wants,” DeFazio says.
DeFazio is concentrating his efforts on winning the House because he believes now, more than ever, it is imperative to balance GOP control of the Senate. Without such balance, he believes voter suppression occurs, and there’s an indifference to other issues such as hacking.
To recruit volunteers, DeFazio and his campaign team organized community forums. In Eugene, a gathering was hosted at Lane Community College’s gymnasium, the largest space they could get.
“We had 2,300 people show up, which is unbelievable,” he says. When DeFazio asked how many people had never been actively involved in politics, more than half of the people stood up. People were ready to be organized, he says.
DeFazio’s campaign manager, Carly Gabrielson, says they have already heard from three dozen community members who want to take action and have never volunteered in the past. He has held community forums in five different counties.
“I just saw a guy on the plane recently, and he said ‘You got a campaign office?’ and said ‘What can I do?’” DeFazio says.
He is putting the volunteers to work, enlisting their help in Oregon where important races are, while also finding a place for them within the national campaign to take back the House. The Red to Blue website lists important races around the country and offers a range of ways to help, from contributing money to volunteering to help write letters and make phone calls or even go door to door.
DeFazio believes the overwhelming support for the campaign stems from the shock of Donald Trump and his actions in the office.
“They are more corrupt and are very efficient at dismantling environmental rules, labor protections, maybe even exceeding what they can do with administrative power,” he says. “Now they are stacking the Supreme Court, we don’t have a tremendous amount of protection there, so we need to get the legislative branch back as a check on the president.”
He adds that his campaign is not just involved in Red to Blue nationally, but is specifically looking at Oregon races for state representative and state senator.
“We’ve got to keep Oregon blue because my district is not very blue. Its kinda purple to pink,” DeFazio says.
As he moves forward with his campaign, DeFazio says that he wants to focus on Red to Blue, more than his race against Art Robinson.
“This is the most important political election of my career,” DeFazio says. “Of my lifetime, probably.”
For more information or to get involved with Red to Blue, see redtoblue.dccc.org. Peter DeFazio’s field office is at 222 E. 11th Avenue in Eugene. Interested community members can contact: 541-515-6192.