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Republican candidate Monique DeSpain challenges U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle to six debates

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Republican candidate Monique DeSpain challenges U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle to six debates

Jun 21, 2024 | 5:11 pm ET
By Alex Baumhardt
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Republican candidate Monique DeSpain challenges U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle to six debates
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Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (left) and challenger Monique DeSpain, Republican nominee to represent the 4th Congressional District (right). (Campaign photos)

Republican congressional nominee Monique DeSpain challenged Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle to six debates in a congressional district that many Republican operatives are eying as key to maintaining the party’s slight majority in the House.

DeSpain made the challenge via a news release and email Thursday, according to campaign communications director, Kevin Hoar. DeSpain hopes to unseat Hoyle, the incumbent representative for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, which spans seven counties mostly along the southwest coast from the Oregon-California border to Lincoln City. 

DeSpain wants the debates held between August and October, each in a different county in the district, with at least three of the debates broadcast on television and the rest streamed on the internet or broadcast on a radio station, the news release said. 

“These debates will give voters a chance to hear and compare Val’s disastrous record of corruption and shilling for DC special interests with my track record of bringing people together to solve tough problems and my bold vision for securing our border and communities, restoring economic prosperity and holding government accountable – starting with Val Hoyle herself,” DeSpain said in the release. 

Elizabeth Wilson, a spokesperson for Hoyle’s campaign, said DeSpain is seeking media attention and never directly contacted Hoyle, or Hoyle’s team, to coordinate a debate.

“We won’t respond to a challenge made through the media, but the congresswoman looks forward to a discussion with Oregon voters about Monique’s support for banning abortion, her work to undermine worker’s rights, and her fealty to Donald Trump,” Wilson said in an email. “With respect to news organizations and civic organizations who host these forums, we will coordinate with them on appropriate times and venues for debates.”

Potentially pivotal seat

The race for the 4th District has caught the eye of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has indicated that flipping the district is among its top priorities in 2024. And last month the, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified Hoyle as a vulnerable incumbent. 

Since redistricting in 2021, the 4th Congressional District’s voter base favors Democrats. Unaffiliated voters who often vote for Democrats make up 35% of registered voters compared to 32% for Democrats and 23% for Republicans, according to the Secretary of State’s data for this month.

Hoyle has raised nearly $1.3 million for her campaign so far, about five times as much as DeSpain. In 2022, Hoyle defeated Republican Alek Skarlatos despite being outspent by nearly $2 million. 

DeSpain has no previous elected experience, though she’s worked in recent years as a lawyer for Salem area Rep. Kevin Mannix, a prominent state Republican. DeSpain is also a 30-year veteran of the Air Force and Oregon Air National Guard who retired as a colonel. 

Hoyle, former state labor commissioner, is a freshman member of Congress who is facing scrutiny over her relationship with the troubled founders of a cannabis company that’s under federal investigation. The company, La Mota, owes millions in state and federal taxes, and the founders are being investigated by federal regulators over their ties to former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who worked as a private consultant for them while her office conducted an audit of state cannabis regulations.