After being courted by national Republican leaders for several weeks, Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken (R) has decided to run for the 4th district seat now held by 12-term Rep. Peter DeFazio (D).
Leiken, a 47-year-old businessman who has run the district’s second-largest city since 2000, submitted the paperwork to the Federal Election Commission to create his candidacy on Monday. A formal announcement will come in early summer, after the city’s budget process is complete.
At first glance, a run against DeFazio may seem like a fool’s errand. After winning his first election by 8 points in 1986, DeFazio has never taken less than 61 percent of the vote — even as his southwestern Oregon district has often voted Republican in presidential and other statewide elections. Last year, DeFazio racked up 83 percent of the vote as President Barack Obama was carrying the district by 11 points.
But in an interview Monday, Leiken said voters in the economically depressed district are ready for change.
“I’m very solutions-oriented,— he said. “That’s what people are looking for.—
And national Republicans believe Leiken has a strong record on economic development issues and the kind of political profile that can appeal to independent voters who are turned off by more seasoned officeholders. Leiken’s family was in the timber industry, and he has also worked as an executive of a local bank and as a business consultant.
Leiken has never had to raise much money for his campaigns — he was unopposed in the past two mayoral elections — but said he has the contacts to be competitive with DeFazio financially.
Leiken said DeFazio has been able to prevail in a swing district because the caliber of GOP challengers has not always been so impressive.
“I think when you look at the different Republicans who have run in the past, I can be pretty confident in saying that none of them have a record of accomplishment like mine,— he said.
Republicans have also raised the specter of DeFazio forgoing another Congressional bid and instead running for governor in 2010.