A still from an Alek Skarlatos campaign ad shows Skarlatos and friends Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler posing with President Barack Obama in 2015, after the three friends stopped a terrorist on a Paris-bound train. (Screenshot)
Oregon Republican congressional candidate Alek Skarlatos has been running ads about how he was praised by President Barack Obama – and the former president wants him to stop.
Skarlatos, a former Army National Guardsman, met Obama in 2015, after Skarlatos and friends Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler stopped a terrorist on a Paris-bound train. At the time, Obama said the three “represent the very best of America.”
Now, seven years later, Skarlatos is the Republican nominee in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, where past elections show Democrat and state labor commissioner Val Hoyle holds a slight advantage. Obama features in at least three of his television ads as Skarlatos tries to appeal to nonaffiliated and Democratic voters.
An Obama adviser called those ads misleading, noting Skarlatos opposed several of the Obama administration’s biggest priorities. During his 2020 campaign against Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, Skarlatos repeatedly called to repeal Obama’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act. He also said it was “up for debate” whether humans contributed to climate change.
“Alek Skarlatos’ ads are purposely misleading,” said Hannah Hankins, Obama’s communications director. “Skarlatos has made clear he wants to roll back progress that President Obama delivered on – from the ACA to climate change – showing he is deeply out of step with Obama’s vision.”
Skarlatos’ campaign manager, Ross Purgason, said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle that Skarlatos appreciated Obama and his kind words, as well as Obama’s decision to award Skarlatos the Soldier’s Medal, which recognizes Army members for acts of heroism that didn’t involve actual conflict with an enemy.
“It’s sad that partisans would try and make that a bad thing – and that sort of politics is exactly why we need to bring balance to Washington,” Purgason said.
Along with featuring Obama and his defense secretary at the time, Ash Carter, Skarlatos’ general election ads include promises to protect women’s health care, invest in rural health access and support increases to the minimum wage.
During his 2020 campaign, Skarlatos said the U.S. Supreme Court should “go for it” if it could overturn Roe v. Wade and the federal right to abortion. He no longer mentions abortion on the campaign trail, though a national anti-abortion group recently spent $8,000 on mailers urging abortion opponents to vote for him.
He said he didn’t believe in a federal minimum wage and that Oregon’s state minimum wage was already high enough during a 2020 debate when the standard rate was $12 an hour. This July, in a guest column in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Skarlatos wrote that increasing the state minimum wage, which is now $13.50 an hour, was the “right decision.”
His ads also address comments he made on a podcast in 2018 about choking women during sex. Hoyle featured those comments, first reported by the Capital Chronicle, in her own campaign ads. Skarlatos referred to the comments as “immature and hurtful” and a “dumb mistake” in ads where he accused Hoyle of “slinging mud.”
DeFazio said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle that Skarlatos “made no bones about being a right-wing extremist” when they faced each other in 2020.
“His disingenuous about-face is nothing more than a political stunt engineered by Republicans who know their draconian ideas are too unpopular to get them elected,” DeFazio continued. “I have confidence in Oregonians and I know they’ll see Mr. Skarlatos for exactly what he is: a grifter who will say anything to get elected.”
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