05/15/2012 07:19 pm ET Updated May 16, 2012

Rep. Peter DeFazio Challenged By Father, Son In Oregon Elections

Rep. Peter DeFazio, a top Democrat on powerful transportation and natural resources congressional subcommittees, faces challenges from two members of the same family -- both with some background in energy and environment issues.

DeFazio, Oregon's most senior member of Congress, has served in the House since 1987. His challenger in the May 15 primary is Matt Robinson, a 24-year-old graduate student in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University who registered as a Democrat just last year.

The winner of the primary faces Robinson's father, Art Robinson, in November. Art Robinson, the sole competitor for the GOP nomination in the 4th Congressional District, is a chemist who for the past 25 years has written a monthly energy newsletter he has described as "pro-science, pro-technology, pro-free enterprise."

In 2010, Art Robinson ran against DeFazio on the Republican ticket and eked out 45 percent of the vote. The next day, Robinson announced intentions to run in 2012.

According to reporting from longtime correspondent Charles Pope at The Oregonian DeFazio finds himself in "a competitive race with a novice opponent who's been assisted by a torrent of attack ads financed largely by a wealthy New Yorker," forcing him to spend precious time and campaign resources he'll likely need for a bigger battle in November.

More from the Oregonian's Pope on the presumed November contest between DeFazio and Art Robinson:

Polling for the contest is thin, with a Republican-backed survey from early October showing that Robinson had closed to within 6 points. A second poll released Oct. 11 from a Democratic polling firm showed DeFazio with a 14-point advantage. Independent election analysts are predicting a DeFazio victory though nowhere near the 82 percent of the vote he earned in 2008 against a pair of minor party challengers.

DeFazio sits on the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, and the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee -- both under the House Natural Resources Committee.