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Q&A with Alek Skarlatos, Republican candidate for Oregon's 4th Congressional District

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Oregon's 4th Congressional District will elect a new representative for the first time in nearly 40 years this November with the retirement of Peter DeFazio. KVAL News is sitting down one-on-one with the candidates leading up to the election. Brandon Kamerman spoke to Republican Alek Skarlatos about his plans for the position.

Brandon Kamerman, KVAL News: I’m joined by Republican congressional candidate for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, Alek Skarlatos. Thanks for coming up to our studio here in Eugene, Alek.

Alek Skarlatos: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. You guys have a great view up here.

It is a nice view, and we’re happy to have you come up this way. Troubling news month after month with the national inflation report consistently over 8% for several months, taking a toll on a lot of people in the 4th Congressional District. What would you do at the federal level to address this growing crisis?

AS: I think the biggest thing we can do federally is just stop spending the amount of money that we’re spending. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but inflation’s above 8% now. That’s like working one month out of the year just to pay for the added cost of goods. I mean, that’s absolutely insane. That’s unsustainable. Federally, again, stop spending money. I think we could have standalone bills. I mean look at the infrastructure bill that was just passed. It was $1.3 trillion. Only about $400 billion of that was for actual infrastructure. Both parties are guilty of this. They hold the good parts of a bill hostage in order to get all these other pet projects and special interest provisions added to a bill, and that’s why they are oftentimes more than double the cost of what it actually should be.

Is there something that can be done to address the fact that also wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living?

AS: Yeah, absolutely. A big part of that is due to a lack of competition for employment, and people are trying to pay more and more for their employees, and that’s also driving inflation as well, but that’s a huge issue economically. That also is tied into the supply chain crisis we’re facing. I think we can expand the port of Coos Bay. This is the poorest congressional district in the state of Oregon, we can afford the inflation the least, and there’s abundant natural resources but we’re not harvesting them and so we don’t see any of that money coming in to our state, especially this congressional district. There’s a lot of things I think we can do better on that end as well, but it is a huge problem, and people my age are gonna have to deal with this national debt. Most of them are still trying to save money to buy their first house, and most of my friends are 30.

Another wildfire season, more destruction. We’ve had poor air quality and consistent fear for a lot of people around the state that their home or their business might not make it through the wildfire season. How can we manage this crisis better?

AS: Well, this is something that's predated me, absolutely. This has been an ongoing problem for about 30 years. A 100,000-acre fire used to be a once-in-a-decade occurrence and now it’s almost every year. A few years ago we had three going at the same time in Oregon. This is just a lack of forest management on the federal level. We don’t manage our forest. We don’t salvage log. We don’t replant. This is just laying the groundwork for the next forest fire season. That’s why these fires get worse and worse and worse. I mean, this is something that both parties should have been able to compromise on by now. Again, this has been a growing problem for the last 30 years. Nothing has been done about it. That was probably my biggest reason why I got involved in politics, being from Douglas County myself and seeing these fires grow worse and worse every year and absolutely nothing being done about it, and we know the direct cause of these fires, and no one has done a thing about it. They’re not even fighting the fires once they start. A lot of times they watch them until they grow to be several hundred acres, and then they get out of control very quickly. It’s a terrible policy and it needs to stop.

Oregon is perhaps the most accessible state in terms of abortion, in the country. Federal lawmakers could institute a ban which would supersede Oregon state laws. You have been endorsed by pro-life groups. Would you support a federal abortion ban?

AS: I wouldn’t because Republicans can’t have it both ways. We can’t say it should be a state issue because it’s not in the constitution, but then vote to ban it federally. I’m a states rights advocate myself. I think states should control a lot of things that they don’t that are unfortunately left up to the federal government, like our timber policy. Again, I don’t believe I should be setting the laws for people in Oklahoma, and I don’t want people in Oklahoma setting laws for the people in Oregon.

There’s a growing chasm between the two parties. There’s no secret about it. The 4th Congressional District has strong Democrats, strong Republicans, moderates, independents, some people who don’t like either party. I would argue some of this, though certainly not all of it, really simmered following the 2020 election, which a good portion of the country still does not accept the result of. Do you consider Joe Biden the legitimate U.S. president and would you have voted to certify the 2020 election?

AS: Well, I would have voted to certify because I believe Joe Biden is unfortunately the president, and I think we’re a lot worse off for it. I mean, a big part of the reason why I decided to run again was the Afghanistan withdrawal and the largest loss of life from a single ground attack in the entire global war on history – uh, global war on terror’s history. We are significantly worse off because of Joe Biden as president, but I would have voted to certify the election. I think he was elected. We didn’t see any funny business in Oregon. We watched our election very closely.

Would you, if you had former President Trump’s ear, would you encourage him to admit defeat in the election?

AS: Um, yeah, I think most of the country has moved on past that, even a lot of the Republicans that still think he should have won. I mean, we’re on to bigger and better things. We’re on to the midterms. Hell, Trump’s already about to announce his run probably in 2024. I mean, I don’t know, but I think I’m focused on winning the people of the 4th Congressional District. I’m focused on inflation. I’m focused on gas prices. I’m focused on forest management and making it so we’re not the poorest congressional district in the state. Those are my priorities.

How do you think we got to be the poorest congressional district in the state?

AS: Well, it’s been a long time coming. Like I said, this really started about 30 years ago in the early 90’s when we really tapered back the timber industry, and I think that it’s no coincidence that it takes about 30 to 40 years for Douglas fir to mature, and that’s about how long we’ve not been harvesting it. The mandatory minimums set in the ONC laws, but that's a whole other story. I think it’s just due to the fact that we’re a rural district with abundant natural resources, whether it be on the coast or the forest and we’re not taking advantage of them at all, not even from an environmental standpoint. Like I said, we’re not replanting, we’re not salvage logging. We’re not doing a lot of these things that should be done, even from an environmental standpoint.

The chasm between the parties is evident with recent decisions by red state governors to send immigrants to blue states. Do you support this move and what would you say if that same situation happened in, say, Portland, which is a sanctuary city?

AS: Well, I don’t know if I would support it or not, but I think it does point out the hypocrisy of a lot of these states that support open and unrestricted immigration, to the point of illegal immigrants coming into the country, but then they don’t want to have to deal with the consequences. They want Texas to deal with the consequences for the entire country, and I think that’s absolutely unfair. I mean, I don’t know if I'd agree to sending them to other states necessarily, but I think it makes a good point that Texas and other states along the border are unfairly bearing the brunt of this immigration crisis, and a lot of states that vote for people like Joe Biden that has mismanaged the border are not seeing – they’re not paying their fair share for the impact that they are causing. So I think it does make a good point, but maybe it’s probably not the best way of doing that.

If you get elected and you have immigration on the table, and obviously this is a topic that’s been going on now for years, what would you be pushing to help the immigration situation at the border and to avoid these circumstances where, maybe governors feel this is the best way to get the point across?

AS: Well, we just have to cut back on immigration, at least illegal immigration for god’s sakes. I mean, we should have plenty of immigration. My father was an immigrant, but we need to have it legal and safe. We need to know who’s in this country. The terrorist that I stopped in France, Europe knew he was in the country. He was vetted and he was still a radical terrorist. If we are allowing people across this border without vetting, without doing any research into their background or their criminal record. Imagine who we’re letting into this country. If nothing else, it’s a security risk. I mean, there’s people from all over the world coming through our southern border and it concerns me as it should concern everyone. Not to mention we’re seeing this massive rise in crime across the country, not just due to the southern border but it’s certainly a contributor, especially with our increase in overdose deaths on fentanyl.

You brought that up. I was gonna ask you about that. It is a growing problem in Oregon and here in the 4th Congressional District. Here in Eugene particularly and in Lane County. What can be done about this? We’re losing kids, teenagers, young people on a regular basis.

AS: Well, I think it also comes down to controlling the border. I mean, most of this fentanyl comes from China and comes into our country through the southern border. Some of it does come in container ships from China as well, and we need to lock that down as well. It’s unfortunate, but also in Oregon more at the state level, but we basically made all drugs legal. Most people that I know that were on drugs that got clean got clean because they were put in jail, made to be sober over the course of a few days and then made a conscious decision once they were sober whether they wanted to enter a rehab program or go back out into the streets and continue using drugs. Now people don’t even have that opportunity and so they’re just continuing to use drugs on the streets, a lot of them until they overdose, and I think that’s a huge contributor to the problem.

How can we improve public education, obviously here in Oregon but nationwide?

AS: Well, public education’s a huge problem for a long time. Oftentimes we see parents pitted against the teachers’ unions, and if parents have a problem with their students’ education obviously there’s a lot of other options, but if you want to work within the public school system, get involved, get elected to school board, we saw a lot of this over the last year in particular with parents realizing what their kids are being taught, but you are in charge of your own child’s education, whether it be public school, private, charter, whatever, but you need to get involved and I think parents didn’t realize what their kids were being taught so they decided to run for school board and that would be my advice for anybody. All politics is local.

How can we lower healthcare costs for people in this 4th Congressional District?

AS: Well, healthcare costs, that’s a huge issue. There’s a lot of things that contribute to that. In particular pharmaceutical costs, for instance. There’s a huge bureaucracy set up behind that. Also with how we negotiate healthcare, how other countries negotiate their healthcare costs compared to how we do is absolutely backwards. We generate and produce most of the pharmaceuticals. A lot of them are produced in China as well, but we don’t see any reduced cost for that. Most of the pharmaceutical costs are being disproportionately paid by the United States for research and development because other countries negotiate a better deal. I would like to see the United States have a favored nations agreement where it would basically force other countries to pay a little bit more. The United States would pay significantly less, but it would really kind of even drug prices out across the globe so that everyone is paying their fair share, not just the United States.

You kind of alluded to how unique this district is because you have very left-leaning regions in the district. You have very right-leaning regions in the district. You have a lot of independents, who as I mentioned before, don’t like either party. How do you address all your constituents? You’re running as a Republican, but if you win, you would be representing more than Republicans. How do you address all the constituents in this district?

AS: Well, this district is Democrat by four percentage points now. They have a 4% advantage over Republicans after redistricting. So I’m not going to be able to get elected unless I win the unaffiliateds by a large margin and probably some Democrats as well. I’m running on, you know, pretty common sense issues, I’d like to think: forest management. The coast is now – 70% of the Oregon coast is now in this district. Coastal issues are very important. I’m running on things that everyone cares about, lowering inflation, lowering gas prices, lowering healthcare costs, improving healthcare access. I think that’s how we win. That’s, again, what most people want. Most people want to see things like single-issue bills getting passed through Congress. Most people want term limits. This is pretty common-sense stuff. It just hasn’t gotten done yet because for whatever reason, our district has been ignored for quite some time.

If you win, you have been a supporter of term limits, no secret to that, would you set your own personal term limit, even if it’s not passed at the federal level?

AS: Yeah, I personally do not want to be in D.C. for more than 20 years. I think that’s plenty of time to get anything done, and if I can’t get something done in 20 years, it’s probably best to step aside and let someone else do it. To actually get passed I’d like to see something like what the military has, upper out, whether you get promoted or you get out. I think a good number for that would be something like 12 years, six terms in Congress, and then if you get promoted to the Senate, you can do another two terms, six years each, for 12 years as well in the Senate.

Republican candidate for 4th Congressional District, Alek Skarlatos. Thanks again.

AS: Thanks for having me.

Watch our interviews with the other candidates for 4th Congressional District:

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