The timing couldn't have been more apt. On Friday, while election officials were dropping your ballot into the mail, Peter DeFazio dropped $13.5 million into the Coos Bay Rail Link.
Whether the timing was intentional or not, the message is unmistakable. The Fourth District's veteran congressman delivers for the South Coast.
Off-cycle elections are generally a hard slog for the president's party. This year, the Tea Party has energized conservatives, and the Democratic DeFazio faces a well-funded challenge from the GOP's rightmost reaches.
A victory by challenger Art Robinson seems improbable, but the possibility should motivate mainstream voters to turn out for the incumbent. DeFazio combines the two most attractive qualities for any politician -- influence and independence. Replacing him with an eccentric firebrand would be a disaster for the district.
As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, DeFazio is perfectly positioned to serve Coos County's infrastructure needs. Working with other members of the Oregon delegation, he secured $8 million to rescue our irreplaceable rail line from abandonment, then followed up with last week's reconstruction grant.
Jetty repairs and our airport's new control tower also bear DeFazio's fingerprints. These projects are essential to help rebuild local commerce.
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DeFazio's influence reflects his Democratic Party seniority, but he is no lockstep party man. He has defied congressional leaders and presidents of both parties on trade bills, the Bush-Obama bank bailout and the stimulus.
Though his critics chastise him for backing the health care bill, he shrewdly bartered his vote to win reform of unfair Medicare reimbursement rules. Seniors in Oregon and other under-reimbursed states will get better care as a result.
Whereas DeFazio is a master of applied political leverage, his Republican opponent is all ideology. A chemist by profession, Robinson made his name by tilting at such scientific windmills as Darwinism and global warming. He pleases conservative crowds by warning of America's 'stumble into socialism."
Robinson has moderated his rhetoric for campaign purposes, but he has a long history of castigating public education, while peddling a rival home-school curriculum. He seems to delight in flirting with fanciful contrarianism, such as his theoretical suggestion to sprinkle nuclear waste over the oceans.
Robinson is the ideal candidate for conservative voters who want to poke the government. But his potential for helping the South Coast is questionable, mostly because he despises the political give-and-take that gets things done.
The South Coast has been well-served by DeFazio's experience and skill. Trading those assets for Robinson's zealotry would be a bad bargain.