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Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio announces retirement, won't seek re-election in 2022

"It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being," DeFazio said in a news release.
Credit: AP
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., speaks on the House floor as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. — U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., announced Wednesday that he won't seek re-election in 2022. DeFazio, the longest-serving House member from Oregon, served 36 years in the House of Representatives.

"It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being," DeFazio said in a news release.

DeFazio currently serves as the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The release sent out Wednesday morning by DeFazio's office outlined some of his accomplishments during his career, including "aviation safety, infrastructure investment and job creation, preservation of public lands and resources, fair trade and labor protections, organic farming and climate change."

"It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as Congressman for the Fourth District of Oregon," DeFazio said. "For 36 years, I have fought corporate greed and special interests to benefit Oregon's working families. ... Thank you for putting your trust in me."

DeFazio held a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss his 36-year career and decision to retire.

While his announcement comes as his party faces a number of challenges ahead of the 2022 midterms, DeFazio’s seat is probably safe for Democrats. Oregon's 4th District covers the southwestern portion of the state, including coastal communities and the liberal university towns of Eugene and Corvallis.

DeFazio was first elected in 1986. The last time a Republican was elected to the seat was 1972.

In 2020 DeFazio faced a spirited challenge from Alek Skarlatos, a hero soldier-turned-Republican congressional candidate. In 2015, Skarlotos, a member of the Oregon National Guard, helped disrupt an attack on a train bound for Paris by a heavily armed man who was a follower of the Islamic State group.

RELATED: DeFazio v. Skarlatos: Oregon's most expensive US House race ever goes down to the wire

DeFazio beat Skarlatos by 5 percentage points, his closest margin of victory in many years.

And while the GOP will see an opportunity in the 4th District next year, there will likely be many strong Democratic candidates as well. Democrats control the Legislature, all statewide elected offices, the two U.S. Senate seats and four of the five current U.S. House seats in Oregon.

Originally from suburban Boston, DeFazio got an advanced degree in gerontology from the University of Oregon and later worked as an aide to former Oregon Rep. Jim Weaver, who he succeeded, and as a county commissioner.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. said DeFazio is "the most knowledgeable and influential member of either chamber and of either party when it comes to transportation and infrastructure."

"He's carved out an unprecedented record and Oregon and our whole country is better for his service," Blumenauer said in a statement. "I am proud to have served with him and wish Peter every success in the next phase of his career."

RELATED: Oregon Rep. DeFazio calls Biden's infrastructure plan the biggest thing in 100 years

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said DeFazio's 36-year career leaves a legacy that will benefit future generations.

"Chairman DeFazio is known and respected by all as a champion of sustainable, smart and green infrastructure, whose progressive values, passion and persistence have helped rebuild America and the middle class," Pelosi said in a statement.

On Tuesday, DeFazio said he still has a lot of work to do during his remaining 13 months in office, including helping pass President Joe Biden's nearly $2 trillion social and environment bill, which passed the House in November.

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