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Many voters in Oregon's 4th Congressional District have never known any congressman but Peter DeFazio. After 13 terms, voters easily may take for granted DeFazio's know-how and diligence on behalf of local people and local communities.

That would be a mistake, because DeFazio's experience and effectiveness would be hard to replace.

DeFazio is a high-ranking member of House committees dealing with both transportation and natural resources. Those are key issues for the communites of his district, and DeFazio wields his influence skillfully.

South Coast residents have DeFazio to thank, in part, for restoration of rail service. The Coos Bay port's acquisition of the valley-to-coast rail line not only saved existing jobs, it also creates opportunities to recruit additional rail-dependent industries. Buying and restoring the railroad would have been much harder, if not impossible, without DeFazio's influence.

For many years, DeFazio has been a leading figure in efforts to maintain federal timber payments to rural Oregon's so-called 'O&C counties." Now DeFazio is leading a push to move 2.4 million federal acres into two trusts, one reserved for conservation and the other dedicated to commercial forestry. If he succeeds, Oregon will see not only revenue for rural counties, but a revival of timber-based jobs.

As in 2010, DeFazio is in a hard-fought battle with Art Robinson -- a Cave Junction chemist, home-school advocate and tea party darling. Many conservative voters will be drawn to Robinson because of his peppery perspectives on such diverse topics as climate change, federal deficits and public education. But even in a Republican-controlled House, an ideologue such as Robinson is unlikely ever to represent the 4th District as effectively as the adroit and pragmatic DeFazio.

This year, as in every election since 1986, voters should send DeFazio to protect our interests in Congress.

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