The world has less than 10 years to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to maintain a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to an April report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the world isn’t on track to meet that deadline.
For Doyle Canning, one of eight candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to succeed longtime Congressman Peter DeFazio, the urgency of climate action is summed up in two words: can’t wait.
Midterm elections often have low voter turnout, and with sinking approval ratings for President Joe Biden and the Democratic control of Congress, Canning tells Eugene Weekly in two interviews — one shortly after her announcement to run and another a month before the May 17 primary — that her campaign can excite voters. During her campaign, Canning has called for progressive policies to address climate change and health care, and she has also criticized the race’s frontrunner, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle, as well as DeFazio himself.
“It’s a moment when we need bold progressive leadership in Congress, leaders who have been in the fight and will continue to stay in the fight and won’t be swayed by the pressure of lobbyists and big money in politics,” she says. “I know that’s possible. And so do my supporters. We’re not giving up on democracy in America, and we’re not giving up on the 4th District.”
Canning is a community organizer, vice chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon Environmental Caucus and environmental lawyer. She says she’s currently registered with the Oregon State Bar as pro bono to avoid registration fees since she’s not practicing law during her congressional campaign. She works as a consultant for Greenpeace.
Canning’s campaign in the 2020 election was scrutinized by DeFazio, who called her tactics “very nasty” in a Feb. 23 interview with the climate change-oriented online publication DeSmog, and he was concerned that she would use the same tactics in 2022. Her campaign declined to comment on DeFazio’s statements to DeSmog, but posted a Tweet that referencing it, saying “TFW powerful men go on the record calling me ‘very nasty’ for having the audacity to run for Congress.”
EW asked Canning about the validity of this statement because DeFazio referred to her campaign, not her. “I feel like you’re splitting hairs,” Canning says. “In response, I would say that I have been taking on the fossil fuel industry and the politicians that they pay for 20 years. It’s not the first time that people have called me names for being a bold leader for our climate, and it won’t be the last.”
During Canning’s 2022 campaign, she’s criticized Hoyle for her past support of the Jordan Cove LNG in Coos Bay and the donations that funded her state races, as well as for support from the centrist New Democrat Coalition and a flyer distributed by crypto currency-funded Web3 Forward. Hoyle tells EW that because of Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that campaign money is free speech, she cannot disassociate herself from Web3 Forward support. Nor can the Super PAC coordinate with her on campaign materials.
Canning claims she’s not intending to create a toxic political season; she says she’s holding Hoyle accountable to her whole record.
“In this Congress with President Biden’s agenda, the toxic politics of fossil fuel money in Congress — and the 13,000 lobbyists who work on Capitol Hill to protect corporate interests — that’s why I’m running,” she says. “We have to change that toxic politics. The only way we can get big money out of politics is to elect candidates who don’t accept big corporate contributions and don’t have big billionaire super PACs behind them.”
Hoyle has received the lion’s share of local endorsements, but Canning says that she’s the progressive grassroots candidate so her support won’t come from the establishment.
In 2020, Canning ran a primary campaign against incumbent DeFazio, who was running for his 18th term in Congress. DeFazio handily won the primary election, with 83 percent of the vote with Canning receiving 15 percent.
After the 2020 election, Canning says that people were encouraging her to run for a seat in the Oregon State Legislature. She says she spoke with her state representative, Paul Holvey, in fall 2021, but she adds, “He’s done a great job and isn’t going anywhere.”
In December 2021, when DeFazio announced that he would not seek another term in Congress, he endorsed Hoyle shortly after.
The 4th Congressional District’s boundaries changed after redistricting in 2020, and now the district has a slight Democratic lean. It’s a district that has a range of voters, from Eugene liberals to more typically conservative rural residents. But Canning says she doesn’t see an urban-rural divide. What worries her is the “haves and haves not” of the country. “In that, we find a lot of common ground in Oregon,” she adds.
DeFazio has said several times since his December 2021 retirement announcement that it’s easier for a Democrat to win in the general election, but it’s not a guaranteed win, especially with the presumed Republican candidate Alek Skarlatos’ near-$2 million warchest.
Canning says the seat is bluer after redistricting and that what could jeopardize the seat more — especially in a midterm election — is having two candidates who are backed by their respective party establishment, referencing Hoyle and Skarlatos. “If we’re not fighting for working people, why would they show up?” she says. “That’s what we need to do. This is a turnout election. Turnout is traditionally lower in off-years. The challenge for Democrats is to energize the base and expand it.”
According to the most recently released campaign data from the Federal Elections Commission, Canning raised $189,427 from Dec. 25, 2021, when she had an exploratory committee, to March 31. The FEC releases campaign data on a quarterly basis. Her fundraising puts her third in the Democratic field, behind Hoyle and Airbnb lobbyist Andrew Kalloch.
An analysis of Canning’s campaign data shows that her campaign is funded through individuals. Her top three U.S. state sources are: $64,723 from Oregon, $23,385 from California and $11,575 from New York.
Among the field of candidates seeking the party’s nomination to represent the 4th Congressional District, Canning has received the most endorsements from youth organizations and progressive party groups. Her endorsements include both college Democratic Party clubs at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, the climate action-focused Sunrise Movement groups, the Oregon Progressive Party and the Eugene chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Her Oregon-based individual endorsements include former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (who ran against DeFazio in the 1986 primary for Congress), state Rep. Khan Pham of Portland, Corvallis City Councilor Charles Maughan and Eugene School District 4J board members Maya Rabasa and Laural O’Rourke. She’s also been endorsed by actress and activist Jane Fonda, Indigenous activist Winona LaDuke and 2020 presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson.