When Rep. Peter DeFazio announced in In his Dec. 1 press conference why he was retiring after serving 18 terms in the House of Representatives, he didn’t name a successor. But he did describe the qualities they could have.
DeFazio’s retirement from Congress will likely result in a large candidate pool of Democratic candidates for the May primary race. Already there is some interest from state politicians and previous candidates for the congressional seat. DeFazio said he would commit to supporting the Democratic nominee and in his press conference provided a picture of the sort of candidate who’d be right for the job.
“We need someone who’s strong, accomplished, qualified — hopefully with experience with the public sector,” DeFazio said. “There’s a lot of folks I know out there with a lot of talent. It’s been 36 years since the seat’s been open. I expect there will be a lot of folks.”
DeFazio said during that virtual event that “For years, I’ve had Republicans walk up to me at the Douglas County Fair and say, ‘I don’t like what you do, but I know where you stand so I still vote for you.’”
And that’s the sort of integrity he said he hopes the next Democratic nominee has, adding that he wants to follow the model set by former Sen. Wayne Morse and deliver for constituents, as well as for the whole country. “I want someone who has the gumption to do that, and I’m sure there’s someone out there like that.”
So far, three individuals have told Eugene Weekly that they’re considering a run for DeFazio’s seat, and one person has announced an intent to run.
Doyle Canning challenged DeFazio in the 2020 primary election. Canning works as a consultant for Greenpeace. She tells EW that DeFazio’s retirement announcement was unexpected for her. She’s considering a run for the 2022 May primary but has to talk it over with her family. “We need to pause and appreciate the accomplishments of the congressman and the legacy of DeFazio for southwestern Oregon,” she says.
She says the U.S. is in the midst of several crises, all of which impact Eugene and the district: the pandemic, the rise of white nationalists, the climate crisis — all of this hits home in Eugene and our district. “It’s a moment that requires bold leadership. It’s a moment that requires political courage,” she adds.
State Rep. Marty Wilde tells EW that he’s considering a run for the congressional seat but has not decided yet.
Wilde’s legislative district was altered significantly when the Oregon Legislature redistricted its legislative maps earlier this year, a task that’s done every 10 years with updated resident data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Wilde had sent a letter in support of a lawsuit challenging his district’s redrawing, saying the Oregon Senate had retaliated against him for speaking out about the redistricting. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled the maps were constitutional.
State Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin of Corvallis and Albany tells EW that she is “very seriously considering” running for the open congressional seat. She’s in discussions with individuals, organizations and her family about the run. “I’m focused on determining where I can most effectively serve to deliver results for marginalized people and communities that are often neglected by the political establishment,” she adds.
She expects to make a final decision within the next seven to 10 days, she says.
On Dec. 3, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced that Gelser Blouin had been awarded the 2021 Carl Levin Award for Effective Oversight, a national award. Gelser Blouin had won the award for her work on the state’s foster care program, including returning Oregon children who’d been placed in for-profit out-of-state programs.
“Senator Gelser Blouin protected Oregon’s most vulnerable kids. Period. Her courage and strength to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves deserves recognition,” Fagan said in the Dec. 3 press release.
The only person who’s announced a definite intent to run is Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle.
In a press release sent a few hours after DeFazio announced his retirement, Hoyle both reflected on his tenure as a congressman and her intent to run for Congress. On Dec. 2, Hoyle filed her statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission.
“From my time as Majority Leader in the Oregon House to my current role as Labor Commissioner, I have built a track record as a fighter for the middle-class and working families,” Hoyle said in a press release. “Nobody can fill Peter DeFazio’s shoes. But I am determined to do all I can to ensure that his dedication to our people and communities, his strong and principled leadership, and his track record of putting the needs of hard-working Oregonians first will continue.”
Earlier this year as Democrats began announcing candidacy for the Oregon governor’s race, Hoyle told EW that she planned to seek re-election for her BOLI commissioner position rather than run for governor. According to OreStar, her last reported campaign contribution was on Nov. 6. In 2021, Hoyle raised $530,478 through her state campaign committee but federal law prohibits her from transferring that money to her congressional campaign.
Before becoming BOLI commissioner, Hoyle served as House majority leader in the Legislature.
Insider sources suggest another legislator considering a run for the congressional seat is state Sen. James Manning of Eugene. Manning didn’t respond to EW‘s request for comment.
Whoever wins the Democratic Party’s nomination will face the Republican nominee in a different 4th congressional district map. According to FiveThirty Eight’s analysis of Oregon’s new congressional districts, it favors Democrats by five percentage points. The old maps had a slight Republican advantage of one percentage point.
With that advantage, DeFazio said at the Dec. 1 press conference that another Democrat can be elected to succeed him. “It’s no longer a Republican district,” he said.