Photo courtesy Andrew Kalloch

Happy Together

Airbnb lobbyist and political newbie Andrew Kalloch is running for Congress and says the U.S. needs to have more civil discourse 

Andrew Kalloch named his first-born child Selma in honor of the late activist and former congressman John Lewis. 

“Lewis was a patriot in the first order and should be on the second Mount Rushmore,” Kalloch says. “He believed in using every lever of power in America to effectuate change, to bring justice, to bring equality, to bring us closer to the American Dream.” 

Kalloch, 37, is a self-described progressive running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 4th congressional district. The political newbie and Airbnb lobbyist says he wants to work to preserve democracy at home and abroad and address climate change while also maintaining global free trade opportunities. Kalloch’s idealistic call to work across political ideologies in Washington comes when Congress is steeped in hyperpartisan politics, according to Rep. Peter DeFazio, who retires when he leaves Congress January 2023 after 36 years.

Kalloch filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission on Dec. 14, so he hasn’t reported any cash contributions yet. Only he, Oregon State University Professor John Selker and Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle have filed and announced that they are seeking the Democratic nomination for the 4th congressional district to succeed DeFazio.  

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Kalloch, 37, graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor of arts in history in 2006 and a law degree in 2009. Before moving to Eugene, Kalloch lived in New York City, where he worked as a deputy policy director for the city comptroller from 2014 to 2016 and an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union from 2009 to 2011. 

In 2016, he moved to Oregon. He says his three children are fifth-generation Oregonians through his wife’s family. He works as a lobbyist for Airbnb, but is on leave while he campaigns, and serves on the programming board for City Club of Eugene. He says his wife, Jenna Adams-Kalloch, will support the household during his campaign; she works at the University of Oregon as the senior director of state affairs. 

His lobbying for Airbnb will likely open Kalloch to criticism from progressives for defending a company that is contributing to housing shortages. A 2019 report commissioned by Clatsop County, for example, says that people with vacation or second homes who rent them out through platforms such as Airbnb are making it difficult for locals to rent or own homes. 

“It’s funny to be criticized about Airbnb from a progressive perspective,” Kalloch says. “What you’re doing is taking money that would normally go to a multinational hotel chain and bring it down to people in the community.” 

He says Airbnb should be aware of potential housing effects of its platform, and part of his job at the corporation is to work with cities to create policies that work. But, he adds, progressives creating policies that deny property owners the ability to list a home on a short-term rental website, for example, is the sort of action that alienates voters from the Democratic Party.

Kalloch says he believes in big, bold government approaches to the 21st century’s issues — and the most pressing of these is climate change. 

Kalloch applauds the Biden administration’s recent infrastructure legislation win. He says there could’ve been a greater increase in climate-related infrastructure investments, which is something that DeFazio has also said. 

Where elected officials and policymakers have gone wrong on climate change, he says, is on messaging. Recent legislation, like the Green New Deal, has been wrong to frame climate action as a profitable venture for everyone, he says. “We pretend like there isn’t any sacrifice involved and continue to drive and fly and power phones with coal and oil,” he adds. He says that messaging should follow how previous generations have taken on challenging threats and “not be afraid of asking people to sacrifice for something greater than themselves.” 

Tackling climate change should be a part of all legislation, he says, and points to housing affordability and increasing urban density. He says while living in a 250-square foot apartment in New York City, his carbon footprint was at its smallest. That doesn’t mean he’ll push for New York City-like development in Oregon cities, but work to secure funding to make mid-size cities more walkable, and make smaller towns, like Coos Bay, more walkable as well.

“It’s a systemic issue,” he says. “It has to be a throughline through all of the policies, and that’s something that Rep. DeFazio very much understands. Passing a transportation bill isn’t not just about roads and bridges, but moving to a carbon free future.” 

While in office, DeFazio opposed many trade agreements, including the Obama administration’s Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which he said would have resulted in American job losses. He also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and briefly joined World Trade Organization protesters during the 1999 Seattle protests. 

Kalloch says he’s aware of how free trade agreements like NAFTA have impacted Americans. But Oregon farmers and timber harvesters need to send products overseas and universities need to export technology, he adds. 

Kalloch defends policies like TPP. He says if the U.S. retreats from global trade, it allows “adversaries” like China to fill the void, “making the world less safe, less prosperous and less free.” But he adds that trade agreements must be fair and have a plan to help American workers affected by trade policies. 

If elected, Kalloch would serve as part of a Democratic Party minority in the House if the Republicans win the 2022 midterm elections. In DeFazio’s Dec. 1 retirement press conference, he said that during his tenure, Congress has never been so politically divided, saying that Republicans who voted for Biden’s infrastructure plan were being demonized by conservative voters. 

Kalloch’s aspiration of working across party lines remains despite DeFazio’s views. He says Congress passed extraordinary legislation in the past four years. However, Kalloch doesn’t mention the long road to pass legislation, such as Biden’s infrastructure bill and some of the COVID-relief packages during the Trump administration. But he says if you’re truly a progressive, a legislator should celebrate the small half-wins rather than going all in to get big bills passed. 

Although Kalloch says he’s supported DeFazio since moving to Oregon in 2016, he’s also criticized the congressman’s language. In a Nov. 27 op-ed published in The Register-Guard, Kalloch said DeFazio was wrong to call unvaccinated people “whacked out” because it lacked empathy for those who have been misinformed. 

“We can’t leave anyone behind.” People shouldn’t be described as “whacked out,” “deplorables” or “lost and gone away from democracy,” he tells Eugene Weekly. “We need everyone, and that’s going to take conversations, one-on-one, to rebuild the fabric of democracy.”

This article has been updated.