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Riots Become Issue In Contest Between DeFazio, Skarlatos

Brian Bull; Skarlatos Facebook page; EPD

While riots in Portland and Eugene have subsided in recent weeks, they remain a talking point in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District race between Republican challenger Alek Skarlatos, and incumbent Democrat Peter DeFazio.

Skarlatos says the level of violence seen this year is “unprecedented”.

As to President Trump’s deployment of federal personnel to cities including Portland…

“I consider myself more of a Libertarian so I don’t like seeing the feds get involved in state business at all, ever," he told KLCC.  "But that being said, they were there to protect federal buildings, so they legally were within their rights to do so.  

"And it’s a shame because if the (Oregon State Police) and Portland Police Bureau were actually able to do their job, they wouldn’t have to be there.”

Skarlatos has also criticized the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) established in Seattle earlier this summer, which he suggests could be a "terrifying look into our future" and a precursor to increased anarchy.  He has also called incumbent Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio slow to denounce violent protesters.

Representative DeFazio says he condemns the small minority of people causing destruction.  However, he also says that the deployed federal personnel lacked accountability, and proper training for crowd control. Tensions and violence spiked during the federal presence.

And while the majority of protesters have been peaceful, DeFazio said he’s upset that a small, destructive group has hurt the Black Lives Matter movement, by co-opting their events to carry out violence. 

“The Black Lives Matter people should stay away from these hot points for a little while, continue to demonstrate, let those who are causing the property damage go forward with a small group, and then arrest them and prosecute them," DeFazio said in a KLCC interview this week. 

"Just like Judge Aiken did with the people who were torching SUVs in Eugene a number of years ago.  She wasn’t amused, she sent one of them in prison for 10 years, guess what?  They left town.” 

DeFazio also condemned President Trump’s deployment of federal personnel to Portland.

Skarlatos said if police were able to do their job, federal intervention wouldn’t have been necessary.  He said businesses in Portland and Eugene have seen extensive riot damage over the months. 

"On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, these businesses also now have to contend with thousands of dollars of damage," said Skarlatos.

He also accuses DeFazio of seeking to defund police departments, while the incumbent House Democrat says his support for police reform - including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act - is not removing money and resources from law enforcement.

It's the latest volley in what's considered to be on of the most significant threats to DeFazio's tenure in Congress. Skarlatos has seen a recent surge in fundraising and has worked to frame his opponent as part of the far-left.  DeFazio for his part, has worked to please his base in urban areas like Eugene and Corvallis, as well as supporters in more rural areas which rely on timber and agriculture.

The election is November 3rd.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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