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May 06, 2009

NRCC lands top recruit against DeFazio

National Republicans have landed a top-tier recruit to run against Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken announced Tuesday that he would be running against DeFazio, a longtime incumbent who was elected to the seat in 1986.

Leiken faces an uphill battle in ousting DeFazio, who has routinely won around 60 percent of the vote in his re-election battles.

But DeFazio may not even run for another term; the Oregon Democrat has spoken openly of waging a campaign for governor in 2010. Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski is term-limited.

“No matter what happens, this will be a very targeted race,” Leiken told the Eugene Register-Guard. “No matter who the opponent is, I will have to go out and raise money. Whoever my opponent will be, he or she will have full support (from national Democrats).”

Republicans argue that DeFazio’s seat is winnable because of its politically moderate leanings. George W. Bush won the district with 49 percent in the district in 2000 and 2004, though President Obama won 54 percent of the vote to John McCain’s 43 percent in 2008.

Leiken's announcement came a week after he received an in-district visit from California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is heading up the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recruiting program this cycle.

“Sid is a nice guy and a step up from the Republicans’ last highly touted recruit,” DeFazio said in a Tuesday statement. “I look forward to him continuing his good service as my hometown mayor for the next four years.”

-- Alex Isenstadt

UPDATE:  An original version of this post misstated that former President Bush carried DeFazio's district in 2004.  John Kerry narrowly won the district with 49 percent of the vote.