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US soldier who stopped terrorist attack in Paris is running for Congress in Oregon

In this Sept. 11, 2015 file photo, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, left, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, center, and Anthony Sadler attend a parade held to honor the three Americans who stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound passenger train. (AP Photo/Carl Costas, File/TNS)
October 30, 2020

The National Guard soldier who helped stop an attack by an Islamic terrorist on a train heading to Paris in 2015 is now running for Congress in Oregon.

Alek Skarlatos, 28, is hoping to represent Oregon’s 4th congressional district in the House of Representatives. The Republican hero, whose actions were immortalized in a movie by Clint Eastwood, will need to defeat Democrat incumbent Peter DeFazio.

The Associated Press reported that Skarlatos’ interest in running for Congress first crossed his mind over the summer when his hometown was covered in smoke as wildfires ravaged the Pacific Northwest.

“It was really the lack of forest management that got me interested (in running), because it is a federal issue. And our forest policy is made 3,000 miles away, in D.C.,” Skarlatos reportedly said in an interview.

Toppling DeFazio, the longest-serving House member in the history of Oregon, may be a daunting task, but Skarlatos has raised over $3.7 million in campaign contributions. DeFazio has raised $4 million less than the aspiring congressman, according to the Federal Election Commission.

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A Republican hasn’t been elected to the seat since 1972, but the GOP is hopeful that the Skarlatos can kick off a shift in political power in the region. The seat represents the southern portion of Oregon’s coastal counties that includes rural and conservative areas.

The district also includes liberal areas like the college towns of Eugene and Corvallis, but thousands of students who would normally vote in the district are learning remotely as a result of COVID-19, a factor that could improve the hero’s chances of winning.

Skarlatos’ campaign has frequently focused on the life-or-death struggle that occurred on a Paris-bound train on August 21, 2015, when he and two other men jumped into action to thwart an attack by Islamic extremist Ayoub El-Khazzani.

“We just crossed the border with France. I heard a gunshot, breaking glass and a train employee ran away from the noise at a full sprint,” Skarlatos said during a phone interview. “I look back to see what he’s running from and there’s a shirtless man with an AK-47 (style rifle).”

Skarlatos had just completed a tour in Afghanistan when he and two of his friends subdued terrorist El-Khazzani, who was armed with a rifle, pistol and knife. Skarlatos repeatedly hit El-Khazzani in the head with the barrel of the Islamic extremist’s rifle while Skarlatos’ friend Spencer Stone held the terrorist in a chokehold until he lost consciousness.