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Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oregon's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1987
Preceded by Jim Weaver
Personal details
Born Peter Anthony DeFazio
(1947-05-27) May 27, 1947
Needham, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Myrnie Daut
Alma mater Tufts University
University of Oregon
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Air Force Reserves
Years of service 1967–1971

Peter Anthony DeFazio (born May 27, 1947) is 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, Roseburg and part of Corvallis. As Oregon's most senior member of Congress, he is the dean of Oregon's House of Representatives delegation. A native of Massachusetts and a veteran of the United States Air Force Reserves, he previously served as a county commissioner in Lane County, Oregon.


  • Early life, education, and pre-congressional career 1
  • U.S. House of Representatives 2
    • Elections 2.1
    • Tenure 2.2
    • Committee assignments 2.3
    • Caucus memberships 2.4
  • U.S. Senate elections 3
    • 1995 3.1
    • 1996 3.2
  • Personal life 4
  • Electoral history 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life, education, and pre-congressional career

DeFazio was born in Needham, Massachusetts in 1947,[1] a suburb of Boston.[1] He credits his great-uncle with shaping his politics; as a boy, that great-uncle almost never said "Republican" without including "bastard" at the end (or "bastud," as it usually sounds in the Boston accent).[2] He served in the United States Air Force Reserves from 1967 to 1971.[3] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University in 1969[1] and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1977.[1]

After graduation, DeFazio worked as a gerontologist. From 1977 to 1982, DeFazio worked as an aide for U.S. Representative Jim Weaver.[1] He was elected as a Lane County Commissioner in 1983 and served as chairman from 1985 to 1986.[1]

U.S. House of Representatives


In 1986, DeFazio ran for Oregon's 4th congressional district, vacated by retiring incumbent Democratic congressman Jim Weaver.[1] DeFazio narrowly won in a competitive three-way primary against State Senators Bill Bradbury and Margie Hendriksen 34%-33%-31%.[4] He won the general election with 54% of the vote.[5]

He didn't face another contest nearly that close until 2010, winning every election before then with at least 61 percent of the vote.[6] He has forged a nearly unbreakable hold on a district which is only marginally Democratic on paper; it narrowly voted for John Kerry in 2004.


DeFazio won 82% of the vote over two minor party candidates.

Earlier, he reportedly considered and re-considered running against Smith for the 2008 Senate election.[7][8][9] On April 20, 2007, DeFazio announced he would not run for Smith's seat.[10]

After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it was reported that DeFazio was under consideration for nomination as Obama's Secretary of Transportation.[11] However, fellow 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 a result of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a so-called Super PAC group called The Concerned Taxpayers of America paid $300,000 for ads attacking De Fazio and $150,000 for ads attacking Frank Kratovil of Maryland. It was not revealed until the mid-October 2010 quarterly FEC filings that the group was solely funded by $300,000 from Daniel G. Schuster Inc., a concrete firm in Owings Mills, Maryland, and $200,000 from New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, the co-head of Renaissance Technologies of Setauket, New York. The FEC filings prior to then listed only a Capitol Hill address and Republican political consultant Jason Miller as treasurer. According to Dan Eggen at The Washington Post, the group claims "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 have been for these ads.[12][13][14][15]

DeFazio won with 54% of the vote, his lowest winning percentage since he was first elected in 1986.[16] The Oregonian noted that the reelection of DeFazio to his 13th term was more notable for the amount of outside money spent on the campaign than the candidates themselves.[17]


In September 2011, the National Journal cited DeFazio as an example of “swing-district Democrats seeking reelection in 2012," and who, in “begin[ning] 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."[18]


Peter DeFazio

DeFazio has a progressive voting record. He voted against the Telecommunications Act of 1996—one of only 16 congressmen to do so.[19] DeFazio particularly objected to a provision that deregulated the cable television industry. According to DeFazio, many of his fellow Democratic congressmen later realized "they were idiots" for backing the bill. He was also the only Oregonian who voted against both NAFTA and GATT.[20][21] In 1995, he challenged President Bill Clinton's stance on Bosnia, claiming Clinton and his Cabinet did not make a convincing claim for the operation. On the issue of abortion, DeFazio is strongly pro-choice, earning a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2010.[22][23] He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and was its chairman from 2003 to 2005.

DeFazio has shown a propensity to vote against legislation that would increase the militarism of the United States. In 2000, he voted no on legislation to create a national missile defense network, describing the system as a "comic book fantasy."[24] He has consistently voted against the Patriot Act, including its inception after 9/11 and the recurring reauthorization bills, citing the infringement on the civil rights of Americans.[25] He voted multiple times to set an itinerary for exiting Iraq, and to bring the troops home.[26]

Rep. DeFazio

In 2008, DeFazio and California Representative Pete Stark signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing a one quarter of one percent transaction tax on all trades in financial instruments, including stocks, options, and futures. Subsequently, DeFazio introduced the "No BAILOUT Act."[27][28]

Somewhat controversially, DeFazio declined to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, voting against the final stimulus package on February 13, 2009. He was one of only seven Democratic House members to vote "nay" on the bill.[29][30] DeFazio said that his vote against the bill was due to his frustration over compromises made to win support from moderate Republicans in the Senate, saying, "I couldn't justify borrowing money for tax cuts," in reference to a bipartisan group's decision to cut funding for education and infrastructure initiatives the Oregon congressman had supported in favor of more tax reductions.[31] He also advocated that the U.S. Senate change its cloture rules, doing away with the filibuster.[32]

DeFazio, speaking to press after the exchange, professed that he was honored that Obama recognized him and the issues of his constituents.[33]

DeFazio made headlines in mid-November 2009 when he suggested in an interview with MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz that President Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers. "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get back millions for Americans," said DeFazio.[34] The quote made top headlines at progressive news blog The Huffington Post.[35] DeFazio also suggested that a formal call by the Congressional Progressive Caucus for Geithner and Summers to be removed might be forthcoming. A year later he called for the impeachment of Chief Justice John Roberts because of the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In 2009, DeFazio proposed a financial transaction tax for within the United States only (not internationally).[36] (See DeFazio financial transaction tax.)

During his tenure, DeFazio has butted heads with fellow Democratic politicians, including President Barack Obama, on key Democratic legislation. In December 2010, DeFazio told CNN that “The White House is putting on tremendous pressure” about legislation extending the Bush tax cuts, “the president is making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn't get this bad deal.” According to The Hill, "The president hasn’t said anything remotely like that and has never spoken with Mr. DeFazio about the issue," said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.[37] In August 2011, Defazio stated the President lacked the fight to follow-through in restoring the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, citing the pressure placed on him by the Republicans as the reason.[38] DeFazio, along with fellow congressman Dennis Kucinich and Senator Bernie Sanders, stated that it would be good for the Democratic party if the president faced a meaningful primary, where all the issues would be aired out.[39]

In October 2011, Think Progress noted that DeFazio, “Echoing the demands of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, proposing to tax the trading of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. DeFazio, along with his Senate co-sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), has proposed the tax several times in the past. But this time around, the idea is getting a boost of momentum from the popularity of a similar measure in Europe, as well as renewed national media focus on Wall Street profiteering as a result of the 99 Percent Movement.”[40]

Also in October 2011, the Daily Caller used DeFazio as an example of the increase in “institutional support” being enjoyed by the Occupy movement. Speaking on the House floor, DeFazio said, “Something is happening. Something in this land is happening. I call it the 'American Awakening.'” He added that “I think the young people and the others who are joining them on Wall Street get it. They may not be totally focused, but they know that this is not a country that gives them a fair shot at the American dream anymore — it is a stacked deck.”[41]

DeFazio opposed the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014 (H.R. 4899; 113th Congress), a bill that would revise existing laws and policies regarding the development of oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.[42] The bill is intended to increase domestic energy production and lower gas prices.[43][44] DeFazio argued that the bill did not solve the true cause of high gas prices which he blamed on "Big Oil in the United States and speculation on Wall Street."[43] DeFazio called the bill the "drill everywhere" bill.[44]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Congressman Peter DeFazio
  • Populist Caucus
  • Congressional Biomass Caucus
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus
  • House Small Brewer's Caucus (Founder and Co-Chair)
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Organic Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • Sportsmen's Caucus
  • Congressional Arts Caucus
  • Northwest Energy Caucus (Co-Chair)
  • Animal Protection Caucus
  • Bike Caucus
  • Coast Guard Caucus
  • Community Health Care Caucus
  • Democratic Caucus
  • Healthy Forest Caucus
  • Human Rights Caucus
  • Indian Caucus
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
  • Pro-Choice Caucus
  • Rural Caucus
  • Waterways Caucus[45]

U.S. Senate elections

Early official portrait of Peter DeFazio.


After Senator Bob Packwood resigned in early September 1995, DeFazio ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in a special primary, losing to 3rd District Congressman Ron Wyden. Wyden started out with clear advantages over DeFazio; more seniority, a base in the large Portland media market and more cash on hand in his campaign committee. However, DeFazio's scrappy campaign style, underscored by his TV ads featuring his populist musings while driving in his Dodge Dart, made him a favorite among many Democratic activists. Ultimately, DeFazio lost to Wyden by only 6% in the Democratic primary,[46] despite his early lead of 20%. Wyden, bruised by the primary and trailing State Senator Gordon H. Smith, managed to pull off an upset against Smith in the January 1996 special election.


DeFazio had been mentioned to run for the seat of Senator Mark Hatfield, who announced after the special primary election that he would not seek re-election in 1996. However, faced with the prospect of having to take on well-funded millionaires in both the primary and general election, DeFazio announced in February 1996 that he would not run.

Personal life

DeFazio is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He and his wife, Myrnie Daut,[3] reside in Springfield.

Electoral history

Oregon's 4th congressional district: Results 1986–2014[47][48][49]
Year Democratic Votes % Republican Votes % Third Party Party Votes % Third Party Party Votes % Other %
1986 Peter DeFazio 105,697 54% Bruce Long 89,795 46% 56 0%
1988 Peter DeFazio 108,483 72% Jim Howard 42,220 28% 32 0%
1990 Peter DeFazio 162,494 86% No candidate Tonie Nathan Libertarian 26,432 14% 426 0%
1992 Peter DeFazio 199,372 71% Richard Schulz 79,733 29% 194 0%
1994 Peter DeFazio 158,981 67% John Newkirk 78,947 33% 273 0%
1996 Peter DeFazio 177,270 66% John Newkirk 76,649 28% Tonie Nathan Libertarian 4,919 2% Bill Bonville Reform 3,960 1% 7,058 3%
1998 Peter DeFazio 157,524 70% Steve Webb 64,143 29% Karl Sorg Socialist 2,694 1% 276 0%
2000 Peter DeFazio 197,998 68% John Lindsey 41,909 31% David Duemler Socialist 3,696 1% 421 0%
2002 Peter DeFazio 168,150 64% Liz VanLeeuwen 90,523 34% Chris Bigelow Libertarian 4,602 2% 206 0%
2004 Peter DeFazio 228,611 61% Jim Feldkamp 140,882 38% Jacob Boone Libertarian 3,190 1% Michael Marsh Constitution 1,799 0% 427 0%
2006 Peter DeFazio 180,607 62% Jim Feldkamp 109,105 38% 532 0%
2008 Peter DeFazio 275,133 82% No candidate Jaynee Germond Constitution 43,133 13% Mike Beilstein Pacific Green 13,162 4% 2,708 1%
2010 Peter DeFazio 162,416 54% Art Robinson 129,877 44% Mike Beilstein Pacific Green 5,215 2% 524 0%
2012 Peter DeFazio 212,866 59% Art Robinson 140,549 39% Chuck Huntting Libertarian 6,205 2% 468 0%
2014 Peter DeFazio 181,624 59% Art Robinson 116,534 38% Mike Beilstein Pacific Green 6,863 2% David L. Chester Libertarian 4,676 1% 482 0%

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g DeFazio's biography in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  2. ^ Biography page at archive of DeFazio campaign site at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2003).
  3. ^ a b DeFazio's profile from Project Vote Smart
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Blake, Aaron (January 4, 2007). "Rep. DeFazio pulls name from 2008 Senate-bid speculations". Retrieved 2007-03-12. 
  8. ^ Daily Kos: OR-Sen: DeFazio beats Smith - DSCC poll
  9. ^ Dietz, Diane (April 3, 2007). "DeFazio ponders U.S. Senate run".  
  10. ^ "DeFazio will not run for Senate". April 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  11. ^ "Transportation's Obama Factor". 
  12. ^ DeFazio tries to find out who is behind mysterious attack ads, Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post, September 25, 2010
  13. ^ Wealthy financier is mysterious funder of ads attacking DeFazio, Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian, October 15, 2010
  14. ^ Concerned Taxpayers group is powered by only two donors, Dan Eggen, The Washington Post, October 17, 2010
  15. ^ Pioneering Fund Stages Second Act, Scott Patterson and Jenny Strasburg, The Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2010
  16. ^
  17. ^ Charles Pope (November 2, 2010). " oregon_election_results_us_hou_1.html". The Oregonian. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  18. ^ Alex Roarty and Beth Reinhard (September 1, 2011). "Democrats Distancing Themselves From Obama". National Journal. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^
  24. ^ "US Unfazed By Putin Comments On ABM". Space Daily. July 18, 2000. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  25. ^ David Sarasohn (February 10, 2011). "On Patriot Act, Congress lifts its own gag order". The Oregonion. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  26. ^ "Oregon Lawmakers Sound Off on President's New Plan For Iraq". Salem News. Jan 11, 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  27. ^ Nichols, John (30 September 2008). """The "No BAILOUTS Act. The Nation. Retrieved 20 June 2008. 
  28. ^ Hayes, Christopher (30 Sep 2008). "House Progressives Propose Bailout Alternative". The Nation. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Democrats Not Supporting the Stimulus
  31. ^ The Progressive Gadfly: DeFazio Explains His 'No' on Stimulus
  32. ^ Chu, Keith (February 11, 2009). "Education funds worth fighting for, say Oregon Democrats".  
  33. ^ Mapes, Jeff (March 31, 2009). "DeFazio gets Obama jibe on stimulus vote". The Oregonian. 
  34. ^ Stein, Sam (November 18, 2009). "Rep. DeFazio: Fire 'Timmy' Geithner". The Huffington Post and MSNBC. 
  35. ^ "The Huffington Post". November 19, 2009. 
  36. ^ Charles Pope (December 2009). "DeFazio calls for tax on financial transactions but critics abound".  
  37. ^ Jordan Fabian (12/15/10). "Obama tells lawmakers not passing tax deal could end presidency, Dem says". The Hill. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  38. ^ Pat Dooris (August 19, 2011). "DeFazio says Obama lacks will to fight, may lose Oregon". Channel 8 News, Portland Oregon. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  39. ^ John Nichols (January 12, 2012). "New Hampshire Results Point to a Notable Democratic Enthusiasm Gap". Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  40. ^ Marie Diamond (Oct 5, 2011). "Calling Wall Street A ‘Gambling Casino,’ Democratic Rep. DeFazio Proposes Financial Transactions Tax". Think Progress. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  41. ^ Caroline May (10/06/2011). "Congressional Dems rally in support of ‘Occupy Wall Street’". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  42. ^ "CBO - H.R. 4899" (PDF). Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  43. ^ a b Marcos, Cristina (26 June 2014). "House passes bill to increase offshore energy projects". The Hill. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  44. ^ a b Graeber, Daniel J. (27 June 2014). "House measure on gas aimed at lower prices". UPI. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  45. ^ "Caucus Membership". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved January 6, 2012. 
  46. ^ "1995 Senatorial Special Election Results - Oregon". 5 Jan 2007. Retrieved June 21, 2014. 
  47. ^ "Office of the House Clerk – Electoral Statistics". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. 
  48. ^ "Election Results".  
  49. ^ "November 6, 2012, General Election Abstract of Votes United States President".  

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim Weaver
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oregon's 4th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Pete Visclosky
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
John Lewis
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