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Democrats seeking to replace DeFazio speak at Springfield City Club forum

Seven of the eight Democrats running for Oregon's 4th Congressional District participated in an online forum sponsored by the Springfield City Club.
Screenshot from Springfield City Club online forum
Seven of the eight Democrats running for Oregon's 4th Congressional District participated in an online forum sponsored by the Springfield City Club.

Democrats seeking to replace Peter DeFazio in Congress made their case to primary voters during a forum Thursday sponsored by the Springfield City Club.

With DeFazio set to retire after 18 terms, Oregon’s 4th District lacks an incumbent for the first time since 1986. Seven of the eight Democrats on the May primary ballot took part in the online event.

The candidates agreed on most of the issues, but several directed barbs at Val Hoyle, a former state lawmaker and Oregon’s current Labor Commissioner. Hoyle’s been endorsed by DeFazio and dozens of other elected officials.

One candidate, Oregon State University Professor John Selker, said Hoyle shouldn’t be considered the front-runner.

“The establishment got behind a stalwart before the field was even set, demonstrating party loyalty but not reflecting who can bring in the needed votes in November,” he said.

Hoyle said her political experience demonstrates her ability to appeal to voters in a general election. She won a statewide nonpartisan office, and served as a caucus leader in the Oregon House of Representatives.

“I built relationships across the political spectrum because I was respectful to my colleagues, and I was always very clear about what my vision was and what my values were," said Hoyle, who lives in Springfield.

As of the most recent federal filing deadline, Hoyle was leading the Democratic field in available cash, trailed only by Andrew Kalloch, an Airbnb executive who lives in Eugene.

"The status quo is not working in Oregon," said Kalloch, who called himself a millennial. "We need a new generation of leadership for Oregon and for America."

Other candidates cited their positions on things like climate change and job creation as reasons why they should advance to the general election.

"Protecting our democracy is the bedrock of anything we need to accomplish," said Sami Al-abdrabbuh, who until recently served as chair of the Corvallis School Board. "Access to voting is so important here in Oregon and across the nation."

Eugene attorney Doyle Canning, who unsuccessfully challenged DeFazio in the Democratic primary two years ago, cited her political organizing experience as a reason why she should win the nomination.

"I've spent two decades shaping the political strategy to move ... progressive priorities forward in Congress," said Canning. "I've never been under any illusions that achieving real change would be easy."

While some candidates in the primary have run political campaigns before, for others, it's their first time seeking public office.

"I am, by far, nowhere near as qualified as everybody is here," said Tommy Smith, a personal banker from Eugene. "But you know what, no one is going to be fighting as hard as I will."

Meanwhile, Jake Matthews of Corvallis, who said he's worked on political campaigns in the past, said one of his first goals in Congress would be to work to re-instate the "Fairness Doctrine."

"It will allow us to sue news media that report sensational news," he said.

The winner of the Democratic primary will take on Alek Skarlatos, who’s running unopposed in the Republican primary.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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