PORTLAND, OR – Greek-American Alek Skarlatos, 28, is best known for his heroic effort to prevent a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015. He then appeared in a Clint Eastwood-directed film adaptation of the events and on Dancing with the Stars. Skarlatos is now the Republican candidate running against the incumbent Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), “the fourth most senior Democrat in the House,” Politico magazine reported.
Skarlatos “is one of the House GOP’s strongest recruits this cycle and has attracted such huge sums of money that he outraised the Democratic incumbent by $1.2 million and outspent him by over $900,000 in the most recent quarter,” Politico reported.
"I can’t outspend him. We can’t even match him. He raised more money in a quarter than I’ve ever raised in a year in my life. But we can outwork him," DeFazio told supporters on a virtual phone banking on October 15, the same day that both candidates disclosed their latest fundraising numbers, Politico reported.
Democrats “say they’re particularly anxious because of DeFazio’s position in the party — an infrastructure maven who is primed to play a major role on one of Joe Biden’s biggest priorities if he wins the White House next year,” Politico reported, adding that “he's also been a key player in Congress's stimulus funding stalemate, a strong proponent for airline relief who has even bucked Democratic leadership at times.”
“Party officials say they expect to hold the seat, and DeFazio retains the advantage with his enormous $2.12 million cash on hand, nearly a million more than his opponent,” Politico reported, noting that “still, senior Democrats have grown nervous and officials acknowledge the race will be closer than they'd like.”
“The 73-year-old House Transportation chair has handily won every contest in his sprawling southwestern Oregon district since he first ran for office three decades ago, even as it has tinted slightly redder over the years, but this marks the first time DeFazio has fielded a serious opponent in years,” Politico reported.
“It’s a district that when Peter decides to retire or move on, will probably be the most competitive district in Oregon,” said Mark Wiener, a political strategist in Oregon who has not worked with the DeFazio campaign, Politico reported, “Skarlatos is a blank slate with a big checkbook and the Republican establishment is pretty desperate for a win in some place.”
“This is the kind of race where if you catch the incumbent napping, you can have an upset. Peter DeFazio doesn't take naps,” Wiener added, Politico reported.
DeFazio supporters say that “he has taken the challenge seriously, and that the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has stepped up to protect him, but they also acknowledge certain wild cards in the race — including the wildfires ravaging northwestern Oregon and the absence of his usual voting base of college students,” Politico reported.
“Election forecasters have recently shifted his race from likely to lean Democrat, and while it still favors DeFazio, Skarlatos is now within striking distance,” Politico reported, adding that “the race is also on track to be the most expensive congressional race in Oregon's history” with Republican having spent “$1.5 million on ads, including a $350,000 buy in the final run-up to the election, according to the most recent data compiled by Ad Analytics.”
DeFazio and Democratic groups, however, “have spent more, a total of $2.65 million on ads, as of Thursday” and “that includes $800,000 in ads in the final days of voting,” Politico reported.
"I have never taken any election for granted. We’re working hard. We have a great ground game," DeFazio said in a statement, Politico reported.
DeFazio supporters say that “his populist-tinged progressivism appeals to voters in his purple district, which includes the state’s third-largest city, Eugene, as well as rural towns in timber country and up the Oregon coast,” Politico reported.
Mike Leavitt, the lead consultant for the Skarlatos campaign, said, “I think people are just interested in a new face, in new ideas… Congressman Defazio has been in Congress longer than Alek has been alive,” Politico reported.
Democratic groups “have flooded the district in response, accusing Skarlatos of blindly backing Trump or wanting to dismantle health care protections,” Politico reported.
“Jim Burnley, a former Transportation secretary in the Reagan administration who still works on infrastructure issues and is close to DeFazio, said DeFazio himself has described the challenge as ‘very, very serious’ and is working hard to keep the seat,” Politico reported, adding that “if he does, Burnley said, it would be a boost for any potential infrastructure bill.”
“If the Democrats retain the House, he's the sort of leader that you would want to see,” Burnley said, Politico reported.