Doyle Canning was in kindergarten when her Democratic primary opponent, Peter DeFazio, became congressman for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District district. Forty-year-old Canning is also 22 years younger than the youngest current member of Oregon’s U.S. delegation.
“Things look different here than they did in the 1980s or ‘90s or even the 2000s,” Canning said. “And I'm going to fight for the future.”
On Sept. 23, Canning announced that she is running for congress to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District. Canning said she is part of the new, progressive left and that she is fighting for free college tuition for all, a Green New Deal to combat climate change while introducing jobs in renewable energy, an “affordable future for all” and ending the family separation policy at the border.
Canning said she didn’t think that she would run for congress in a state that she’d only lived in for four years. She credits her time studying environmental law at the University of Oregon for playing a large part in her decision to run.
Canning came to UO when her husband, Justin Francese, decided to enter a Ph.D. program at the School of Journalism and Communication. “It was an obvious choice that Oregon was the place to go and raise our family and build our future, and so that's how we ended up in Eugene,” Canning said.
After being in Eugene for a short time, Canning said she decided that she would enroll in the environmental law program at UO. During her time there as a student and as a research fellow, she read climate reports almost every day.
“It was over the last three years that things really took a nosedive,” Canning said. “The tone of these reports began to shift from a kind of a distant, dry academic tone to alarm bells ringing and every dial on the dashboard blaring red.”
Throughout her studies, Canning said she found that environmental laws in the United States are not sufficient enough to fix the problems she saw in those reports. “We need to upgrade the frameworks that we have to manage this crisis and to get out of it, and no one is going to do that for us,” Canning said. “We are the ones who have to step forward and lead, and that's why I'm running for Congress.”
Many of Canning’s major policy stances stem from her experience with environmental issues. The Green New Deal and the opposition of the Jordan Cove pipeline, proposed to transport liquified natural gas to a port near Coos Bay, are some of the main drivers behind the Canning Campaign.
“If we are able to build a Green New Deal economy that is able to create jobs in forestry, restoring and expanding the forest that we have, those are jobs that last for generations,” Canning said. “Those aren't dead-end jobs like the pipeline.”
Canning said that other candidates running for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District aren’t doing enough to stop the pressing issue of climate change. She often recites the same line, “I'm the only candidate in this race who is not taking any money from big corporate PACs or fossil fuel companies.”
For Canning, Oregon should be leading the United States in creating renewable energy. Wind energy on Oregon’s coast, solar energy in the high deserts of Eastern Oregon and the natural, carbon-reducing forests that stretch across the Pacific Northwest make Oregon a prime location to combat climate change.
Who is Doyle Canning?
The system never really worked for Doyle Canning. That’s why she’s running to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District — so she can fix it.
Canning was at a young age when her and her mother were left to fend for themselves as they tried to escape a home of domestic abuse.
“I watched repeatedly as my mother pled with the system for support and the systems failed us,” Canning said.
Neighbors reached out and helped Canning and her mother. “I learned at a very young age that we need to look out for each other,” Canning said. “And when the system fails us, we need to support each other and work together to change that system.”
So that is exactly what Canning and her mother decided to do.
“I attended protests with my mom from a very young age. Nuclear power, U.S. intervention in Central America, Apartheid — I was connected to those kinds of social movements as a child and a teenager,” Canning said.
This early life filled with social activism brought Canning to Goddard College, which billed itself as a “leader in progressive education.” At first, Canning went to Goddard with hopes of becoming a teacher. Her end goal was to teach social sciences to young people to inspire them to get involved in the political system from as young of an age, as she had.
That plan didn’t last long. “Before I could even finish my degree, I was recruited to work as a community organizer,” Canning said. This community organizing took Canning to rural communities to work with farmers in passing the first statute in the nation to label genetically modified seeds, she said. At 19, her activism led her to the 1999 World Trade Organization protest in Seattle.
“I experienced firsthand the power of a global coalition of labor unions and working people marching arm in arm with environmental movements and human rights activists and how we could work together to confront corporate power and win,” Canning said. “That became my kind of North Star that guided me here ultimately.”
Canning’s early involvement in activism inspired her to start a collective with fellow organizers in 2003, now called The Center for Story-Based Strategy. The purpose of the organization is to provide movements that already have the facts and data on their side with a compelling story to attract higher levels of involvement, Canning said. She also said she hopes her campaign serves as a model for how to run a story-based progressive campaign.
But unseating DeFazio — a 35-year incumbent who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, one of the most powerful committees in Congress — won’t be an easy feat.
“I'm ready to fight for the people of the 4th District and fight for the future of my kids. I have a family I'm fighting for, and I'm not going to give up. I've only ever fought uphill, and I've battled some of the biggest corporations and Wall Street banks in the world,” Canning said. “I'm not afraid of that fight.”