Alek Skarlatos, the Greek-American who was riding as a tourist on a Paris-bound train in 2015 when he and his friends thwarted a violent terrorist attack, will run for the US Congress again in a bid to represent his home district in Washington.
Alek Skarlatos receiving the Soldier’s Medal, one of the US Army’s highest awards, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. Skarlatos, a Greek-American, is running for Congress again against incumbent Peter DeFazio. Credit: U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez/Released/ Alekfororegon.org
After being defeated by a razor-thin margin in 2020’s election after his run against 18-term Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, Skarlatos, who received the French Legion of Honor and the Soldier’s Medal for his courageous actions, ramped up his campaign once again, blowing past his competitors in the state’s Republican primary last week.
He is now poised to win the GOP nomination for Oregon’s 4th Congressional House seat occupied by DeFazio, who has been in office for longer than Skarlatos has been alive — since the year 1987.
The Democrat DeFazio experienced the scare of his political lifetime when he narrowly won back his seat — which he has occupied for a total of eighteen terms — last November, by a margin of 51.58% by 46.26% for the young challenger.
His Republican-leaning district in Southern Oregon has been heavily impacted by many reversals in the forest industry, which had served as the economic backbone of much of Oregon for decades. However, the district also includes Eugene, the university town which is heavily Democrat.
The years DeFazio has presided over the 4th District have witnessed the near-collapse of the logging industry in Oregon.
Skarlatos raised a hefty $4.5 million for his first run at the Congressional seat, compared to $3.8 million for DeFazio.
Outside organizations and groups, often funded by donations from wealthy individuals, also poured hundreds of thousands into independent advertisements in a district that runs from the university towns of Corvallis and Eugene all the way down to the border with California.
Skarlatos criticized DeFazio during the campaign as old and out of touch with the residents of the 4th Congressional District.
The Roseburg native charged that the sitting Congressman should have done more to boost timber harvests from federal lands during his more than thirty years in Washington. In the last weeks of the campaign, Skarlatos spoke about the issue of the unending protests all last year in Portland, pointing out that they were leading to violence and lawlessness.
“It’s simply the blueprint the Democrats want for the rest of the country,” Skarlatos said in an interview on the “Fox and Friends” TV show in the lead-up to last year’s contest.
DeFazio protested that he had a long history of working to provide sustainable timber harvests on federal lands. He condemned unlawful behavior at protests held around hate country in the ugly months leading up to November’s election, with violent actions taking place on the part of the left nearly every night all year long.
Second attempt to unseat long-term Democrat DeFazio
In 2016, Hilary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a razor-thin margin of only 0.1%, according to Cooke’s Political Analysis — leading Skarlatos and other area Republicans to try to capitalize on the backlash that they saw building against the Democrat-led district.
Skarlatos racked up a huge lead in the primary held on June 15, winning almost 87 percent of the primary vote with almost 77,000 mail-in ballots counted, according to information provided by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
While even more mail-in ballots are likely to be counted, Skarlatos’ appreciable lead in the primary prompted organizations, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, to refer to the train hero as the winner of the primary.
Skarlatos received French Legion of Honor, Soldier’s Medal
For their actions back in 2015, which led to the saving of countless lives aboard the high-speed train, Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal and his childhood friend, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone received the Airman’s Medal. The Defense Department Medal for Valor was awarded at the same time to their friend Anthony Sadler. All three men played leading parts in the coordinated attack they made on the supposed terrorist, who was heavily armed and had canisters of gasoline on his person.
The Greek-American hero later played himself in Clint Eastwood’s movie “The 15:17 to Paris,” which portrayed the train episode. He later ran for the county commissioner position in his district in Douglas County, Ore. in 2018 before launching his first Congressional bid.
Skarlatos told a Paris court at the terrorist’s trial in November of 2020 that he had tried to kill him by taking away a pistol from his hand, and even turned it on him and pulled the trigger — but that the gun had failed to fire.
The suspect, Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani, 31, faced a maximum life sentence if convicted of attempted terrorist murder. He was tried for the crime along with three suspected accomplices.
The passengers who helped the three Americans to disarm the attacker on the train from Amsterdam to Paris also testified about the crucial seconds that took place and their actions, which stopped a mass slaughter.
Skarlatos had been traveling with longtime friends Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, whom he had grown up with in California. Stone managed to pin down the attacker, while Skarlatos moved in, joined by another passenger once the gunman was on the ground.
Skarlatos said that it was very difficult to disarm and detain the man.
According to AP reports of the trial, El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov, nine clips with 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol, a box cutter and containers of gasoline.
The terrorist lingered for an extended time in a restroom between cars where two other passengers confronted him, and he then emerged with his weapons.
The three Americans were widely acclaimed as heroes all over the world, being awarded many other accolades after the French Legion of Honor was bestowed on them in a joint ceremony.
Skarlatos, a former Oregon National Guard soldier, retired from the military in 2017 and received the US Army’s Soldier’s Medal and Oregon’s Distinguished Service Medal for his bravery. He was also accorded honorary French citizenship in 2018.