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Hoyle declares victory in Oregon's 4th District

 Val Hoyle, second from right, declared victory in the race for Oregon's Fourth Congressional District on Tuesday night. On Hoyle's right is Rep. Peter DeFazio, the Springfield Democrat who is retiring after 36 years in office.
Tiffany Eckert
/
KLCC
Val Hoyle, second from right, declared victory in the race for Oregon's Fourth Congressional District on Tuesday night. On Hoyle's right is Rep. Peter DeFazio, the Springfield Democrat who is retiring after 36 years in office.

Democrat Val Hoyle declared victory Tuesday evening in the race to represent Oregon's Fourth Congressional District. Meanwhile, Republican Alek Skarlatos isn't conceding defeat.

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 margin of 52% to 42%.

Hoyle, who is currently serving as Oregon’s elected Labor Commissioner, sought the seat being vacated by the 18-term incumbent, who announced his impending retirement last winter. Her apparent victory means Democrats will hold on to a seat that’s been in their hands since the mid-1970’s.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed," Hoyle said at an Election Night party held at a union hall in Springfield. "I’m happy and I’m honored that the voters of the 4th Congressional District believed in what my values are which I believe are the values of the district. Standing up for jobs or working families or the right to choose or addressing climate crisis. Those are the priorities of this district.”

A spokesperson for Skarlatos said the Republican candidate wasn't ready to concede Tuesday night.

"It's way too early to be making predictions on who will win this race," Deputy Campaign Manager Elias LaLande told KLCC. "We always knew that the Fourth Congressional District would be close, and there are a lot of votes to count still."

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 handily turned away 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 Oregon’s House delegation. He announced last December that he would call it quits after his current term.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as Congressman for the Fourth District of Oregon,” 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 emerged the clear 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 are 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 be the recipient of DeFazio’s baton-passing. While Labor Commissioner is a non-partisan position, Hoyle’s party allegiance was never in question. Earlier in her 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 rose to international fame around seven years ago when he helped thwart 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 turned into a motion picture by director Clint Eastwood.

Skarlatos played himself in that movie, and also appeared on several episodes of the television show “Dancing With the Stars.”

His political ambitions started taking shape in 2018, when he unsuccessfully ran for Douglas County Commission. He won the Republican nomination for Congress 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 the once-a-decade redrawing of Oregon’s political boundaries taking effect last year, the Fourth District is changed from when Skarlatos came close to upsetting the incumbent. This year, the party registration more strongly favored Democrats.

Skarlatos stated publicly that he was well aware of that dynamic, and would actively campaign in search of both Republican and Democratic votes. Hoyle, however, tried at every turn to paint 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 crude comments on a podcast recorded shortly before he launched his first political campaign in 2018. At one point, Skarlatos laughed at a joke about the death of a woman during sex.

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

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

Copyright 2022 KLCC. To see more, visit KLCC.

Chris M Lehman