Chairman of the United States House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Date of Birth: 27 May 1947
Age: 76 years old
Zodiac sign: Gemini
Peter Anthony DeFazio is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for Oregon's 4th congressional district, serving since 1987. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Roseburg, Coos Bay and Florence. He chairs the House Transportation Committee and is a founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A native of Massachusetts and a veteran of the United States Air Force Reserve, he previously served as a county commissioner in Lane County, Oregon. He is dean of Oregon's House delegation. On December 1, 2021, DeFazio announced he would not seek reelection in 2022.
Early life, education, and pre-congressional career
DeFazio was born in 1947 in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He credits his great-uncle with shaping his politics; that great-uncle almost never said "Republican" without adding "bastard" (or "bastud", as it sounded in a Boston accent). He served in the United States Air Force Reserve from 1967 to 1971. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University in 1969 and a Master of Arts degree in gerontology from the University of Oregon in 1977.
From 1977 to 1982, DeFazio worked as an aide to U.S. Representative Jim Weaver. He was elected as a Lane County Commissioner in 1983 and served as chairman from 1985 to 1986.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1986, DeFazio ran for the U.S. House from Oregon's 4th congressional district, upon the retirement of incumbent Democratic congressman Jim Weaver. DeFazio narrowly won a competitive three-way primary against State Senators Bill Bradbury and Margie Hendriksen, 34%–33%-31%. He won the general election with 54% of the vote.
DeFazio did not face another contest nearly that close until 2010, winning every election before then with at least 61% of the vote. He has forged a nearly unbreakable hold on a district that is only marginally Democratic on paper. This is due almost entirely to the presence of his base in Lane County, which has almost half the district's population. The district narrowly voted for George W. Bush in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Hillary Clinton by 0.1 percentage point in 2016. In 2020, DeFazio defeated Alek Skarlatos by over 25,000 votes (5.4%). Pacific Green Party candidate Daniel Hoffay finished third with 2.2% of the vote.
DeFazio won 82% of the vote over two minor-party candidates.
Earlier, he reportedly considered and reconsidered running against Gordon H. Smith in the 2008 Senate election. On April 20, 2007, DeFazio announced he would not run for Smith's seat.
After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it was reported that DeFazio was under consideration for Secretary of Transportation. U.S. Representative Ray LaHood was named to the post in December 2008.
In 2010, DeFazio was challenged by Republican Art Robinson and Pacific Green candidate Michael Beilstein. As permitted by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a Super PAC group called The Concerned Taxpayers of America paid $300,000 for ads attacking DeFazio. It was not revealed until the mid-October 2010 quarterly FEC filings that the group was solely funded by Daniel G. Schuster Inc., a concrete firm in Owings Mills, Maryland, and New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, the co-head of Renaissance Technologies of Setauket, New York. According to Dan Eggen at The Washington Post, the group said "it was formed in September 'to engage citizens from every walk of life and political affiliation' in the fight against 'runaway spending.'" The only expenditures were for the ads attacking DeFazio and Democratic Representative Frank Kratovil of Maryland.
DeFazio won with 54.5% of the vote, his lowest winning percentage since he was first elected in 1986. The Oregonian said that DeFazio's reelection to his 13th term was notable more for the amount of outside money spent on the campaign than for the candidates themselves.
In September 2011, the National Journal cited DeFazio as an example of "swing-district Democrats seeking reelection in 2012", and who, in "begin to focus on their reelection bids after Labor Day...are increasingly calculating how close is too close to an unpopular President Obama." It also noted that DeFazio's district "nearly went for Republican George W. Bush in 2004."
Redistricting made the 4th slightly friendlier for DeFazio. He picked up almost all of Benton County, including all of Corvallis, home to Oregon State University.
DeFazio faced a challenge in 2020 from Alek Skarlatos, a Roseburg High School graduate, a former Oregon National Guard soldier who helped subdue a terrorist in the 2015 Thalys train attack. DeFazio won the election by 5.3 points, his narrowest victory since taking office.