True choice in congressional race

The election for the Fourth District congressional seat on Nov. 2 offers us voters a true choice this year: longtime incumbent Peter DeFazio of Springfield, a Democrat; research biochemist Art Robinson of Cave Junction, the Republican candidate; and retired chemist Mike Beilstein of Corvallis, the Green Party candidate.

We’ve heard very little from Beilstein, but this has been the most active campaign in years for the Republican and Democratic candidates. The number of signs posted locally, nearly all of them touting Robinson, alone set this race off as unique.

Robinson, all sides acknowledge, has laid down the shoe leather to present what even the national media recognize as a very serious effort to unseat DeFazio.

The veteran congressman, who has represented the district since 1986 and describes himself as a “progressive populist,” is the dean of the Oregon delegation. He’s a little hard to put in a box. He could be accurately described as a liberal who isn’t afraid to stand up to his own kind on occasion, though he almost always votes with the liberal bloc.

He’s a vociferous critic of Wall Street and trade imbalances, who refused to support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s climate change bill and President Obama’s stimulus packages €“ and called for the resignation of Obama’s top economic aides. He has a “B” rating from the National Rifle Association. Both he and his wife have concealed weapons permits. When in Washington he lives on a boat and rides a bike to work. He has refused to accept congressional pay raises while the government is deficit spending and he has a running meter on his Web site that tallies the estimated amount America owes in its national debt at any particular moment. According to his site, he has used the pay raises he’s refused to fund scholarships at five southwestern Oregon community colleges, some $320,000 by the end of this year.

DeFazio and Robinson are polar opposites on most political issues. A graduate of Caltech who earned a Ph.D at the University of California San Diego and taught there, Robinson is a former associate of Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling who moved north to the Cave Junction area, southwest of Grants Pass, where he raised six children on a farm, home-schooling them himself after his wife died. He’s produced home-schooling materials that have sold thousands of copies, according to his Web site.

He and some of his kids run a research lab on the farm, where they work to develop Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease treatments. All but the youngest have advanced degrees €” and those who don’t are in the process of earning them €” in science or veterinary medicine. This is not your typical political family.

Robinson vociferously opposes “high taxation,” deficit spending, “invasive” government regulation of business, industry, medicine and science, and considers “union-controlled” public schools failures and advocates a return to “locally controlled public schools.”

Robinson has strong views about the potential of nuclear energy and has published a newsletter in which he has advocated various positions and commented on social and political issues over the years €” material that has provided much fodder for the DeFazio camp.

It’s too bad that the race has devolved into a slam-fest in which both candidates accuse the other of being heavily funded by outside interests and of dirty politicking,

Now that the commercials season of the campaign is upon us, DeFazio’s side has aired a lot of ads and created a lot of Internet items, trotting out various comments Robinson has made in his numerous stops around the district and his past writings, which include describing public schools as “institutionalized child abuse,” advocating revocation of all taxes and rolling back regulation for the energy industry, predicting that Social Security will die of attrition and stating that Medicare is a “welfare subsidy,” supporting free trade and criticizing Wall Street reform efforts.

Those who have been to Robinson’s forums or have viewed them on the Internet know that he is passionately pro-science and anti-federal government €” to the point that he believes scientists and businesspeople can solve most problems if they were not hampered by Big Government.

Some of his ideas come across as radical to the average citizen, such as using diluted nuclear waste in building foundations and drinking water to “hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases.”

Robinson is a strong supporter of increasing the influence of state and local government while correspondingly decreasing the power of federal government.

DeFazio, whose views on a number of current issues are reported on page 12 of today’s issue, dismisses Robinson as naïve to the reality of life in the halls of Washington and ridicules his ideas about removing taxation and government regulation of the energy industry as long on “bombast” but short on specifics.

There’s little question that DeFazio has the experience to get things done in Congress. But his goals would be, in many areas, polar opposittes of his opponent’s. He strongly believes that government control is the answer to bad behavior in industry and business €“ particularly Wall Street.

As a Congressional leader in the area of transportatiaon, DeFazio is more interested in building roads and high-speed trains. He’s ridiculed the proposed manned Mars space station recently (accounting for $19 billion in spending this year alone) and comments by Robinson in support of that project.

The unions strongly support DeFazio and he likes to point out that he’s an advocate for common, working middle-class citizens; he’s active in Social Security and Medicare issues.

Robinson may be inexperienced in politics but he’s not lacking in intelligence on a practical level.

A telling anecdote is how, when he decided to run for Congress, he and his family figured out they could make those ubiquitous magnetic “Art Robinson” signs, which normally cost $15 each, by having them printed on adhesive bumper sticker material, then sticking them on magnetic backing and cutting them out €“ for $1.80 each €“ tells you something about the guy.

The question now before us voters is which candidate can do the best job advancing what’s good for America.

– Will less government regulations (Robinson) right America’s economy or will it take continued, or even greater oversight (DeFazio) to move the U.S. in the right direction?

– Can unfettered science solve our energy, health and technology problems (Robinson) or is that a ridiculous idea (DeFazio)?

– Is public education in such bad shape that it’s a hazard to our youngsters’ development (Robinson) or is it taking the next generation in a positive direction as long as it has adequate funding to do so (DeFazio)?

– Should taxes be cut across the board to free up Americans to be productive and profitable (Robinson) or should tax rates be sufficient to maintain essential government services (DeFazio)?

– How about universal healthcare? Yes (DeFazio)? No (Robinson)?

– Sustainable federal forest management (DeFazio) or reclamation of public lands by the people (Robinson)?

Though the preceding is admittedly a very cursory summary of only some of the candidates’ positions, it’s enough to demonstrate that there’s very little gray area here. And that’s the beauty of it. We truly have to make a choice this time. Do your homework on this one.

For much more on the candidates and their positions, including video of them in action, visit http://www.Art RobinsonFor, and http://www.defaziofor may also be helpful.