Hoyle declares victory in Oregon’s 4th District

Voters in Oregon’s fourth congressional district appear to have chosen Democrat Val Hoyle to replace longtime Congressman Peter DeFazio. Initial returns show Hoyle leading Republican Alek Skarlatos by a 52% to 42% margin.

Hoyle, who currently serves as Oregon’s elected labor commissioner, requested the seat vacated by the 18-term incumbent, who announced his impending retirement last winter. His apparent victory means the Democrats will retain a seat that has belonged to them since the mid-1970s.

“I’m pretty upset,” Hoyle said at an election night party held at a union hall in Springfield. “I’m happy and honored that voters in the 4th congressional district believed in my values, which I believe are the values ​​of the neighborhood. Standing up for jobs or working families or the right to choose or face the climate crisis: these are the priorities of this district.

A spokesperson for Skarlatos said the Republican candidate was not ready to concede on Tuesday night.

“It’s way too early to make any predictions about who will win this race,” deputy campaign manager Elias LaLande told KLCC. “We always knew the fourth congressional district would be close, and there are still plenty of votes to be counted.”

This year’s contest in the Fourth District marked the first time since 1986 that Peter DeFazio was not on the ballot. The Springfield Democrat has easily fended off many challengers over the years, including Skarlatos himself in 2020.

DeFazio, 75, chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is currently the longest-serving member of the Oregon House delegation. He announced last December that he would step down after his current term.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as Congressman for Oregon’s Fourth District,” he said at the time. “It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being.”

The rare vacancy sparked an eight-way race for the Democratic nomination. Hoyle came out a big winner in the primary with nearly 64% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Skarlatos was unopposed for the Republican nomination.

There were three other candidates on the ballot in the general election: Mike Beilstein of the Pacific Green Party, Levi Leatherberry of the Independent Party and Jim Howard of the Constitution Party. None of the three is on track to end up with more than three percent of the vote.

During the campaign, Hoyle positioned herself as a solid Democrat, ready to take over from DeFazio. Although the position of commissioner of labor was a non-partisan position, Hoyle’s allegiance to the party was never questioned. Earlier in his political career, Hoyle represented part of the Eugene area in the Oregon House, rising to the role of Democratic caucus leader.

Skarlatos has never held elected office, but he rose to international fame around seven years ago when he helped foil a terrorist attack on a European train. The Army National Guard member was honored for his role by then-President Barack Obama, and the incident was made into a film by director Clint Eastwood.

Skarlatos played himself in this film and also appeared in several episodes of the TV show “Dancing With the Stars”.

His political ambitions began to take shape in 2018, when he unsuccessfully ran for the Douglas County Commission. He won the Republican congressional nomination in 2020, but lost to DeFazio in the general election. It was one of DeFazio’s closest margins of victory in his congressional career.

With Oregon’s once-a-decade reshuffling of political boundaries taking effect last year, the Fourth District is changed from the time Skarlatos nearly upset the incumbent. This year, the party’s registration has more strongly favored the Democrats.

Skarlatos has said publicly that he is well aware of this dynamic and will actively campaign for Republican and Democratic votes. Hoyle, however, tried at every turn to portray Skarlatos as a very conservative candidate who held positions that many Democrats would find objectionable.

Skarlatos’ campaign was also rocked by revelations in September that he had made a series of rude comments on a podcast recorded shortly before launching his first political campaign in 2018. At one point, Skarlatos laughed at a joke about a woman dying during sex.

Hoyle’s campaign used those comments in an attack ad. Skarlatos apologized for the remarks, partly blaming his youth.

KLCC’s Brian Bull and Tiffany Eckert contributed to this story.

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