Val Hoyle
Statewide Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, announced her campaign for Oregon’s 4th congressional district early Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by YouTube via screenshot)

Republicans added the district to their list of top targets, swaying DeFazio’s hand

Retiring U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio declared Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle his preferred successor on Thursday, as other candidates entered or bowed out of races for Oregon’s open congressional seats.

Hoyle, a Democrat, represented the Eugene area in the state House for eight years before she was elected labor commissioner in 2018. She announced her campaign hours after DeFazio announced his retirement last month and quickly dominated the so-called invisible primary, as other elected Democrats opted to endorse her instead of running themselves.

DeFazio said when he announced his retirement that he didn’t plan to play in the primary, though he’d endorse the eventual Democratic nominee. On Thursday, he said in a statement that Republicans targeting the district swayed his hand. 

“This district is already heavily targeted by the Republicans for takeover,” he said. “It’s a little better than the district I ran in last time, but it is no slam dunk for a Democrat. We need a candidate who can hold this seat in November.”

Hoyle has the deep roots in the district, progressive values and proven ability to win tough races that Democrats need to keep the seat, he said. She’s also best positioned to reach labor and “other disenfranchised Democrats who feel that we haven’t been pursuing an agenda that helps them” to persuade them to vote in November instead of sitting out the election, DeFazio said.

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Hoyle’s campaign said she raised $210,000 in December, compared to $148,000 for Andrew Kalloch, the other Democrat who announced his campaign last month. Neither campaign’s 2021 finance reports are available through the Federal Election Commission, which gives candidates until Jan. 31 to file their year-end reports. 

Alek Skarlatos, the Republican frontrunner who challenged DeFazio in 2020, raised $745,000 by the end of September and said he raised another $425,000 in the last three months of 2021. He’s also one of about 30 candidates the National Republican Congressional Committee added to its “Young Guns” list of viable candidates to flip Democratic seats.  

After the Oregon Legislature approved new congressional districts in September, the redrawn 4th Congressional District gave Democrats a partisan advantage of several points in voter registrations. However, 2022 is shaping up to be a better year nationally for Republicans than Democrats. 

Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, chair of the Corvallis School Board, announced his campaign as a Democrat earlier this week. Al-Abdrabbuh has a doctorate in industrial engineering and teaches at Oregon State University. 

He launched his campaign with a laundry list of endorsements from local elected officials, though Hoyle is still winning the endorsement game.

And last week, state Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, announced that he wouldn’t run for Congress. Wilde, who serves in the Air National Guard, said his military service has taken him away from his children for too long and he doesn’t want to spend any more time commuting to Washington. 


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