Rob Cornilles

Bonamici Scores Lasting Victory

Democrat Suzanne Bonamici cruised to victory in a special congressional election and she may have the seat for as long as she wants it. Democrat Suzanne Bonamici cruised to a double-digit victory over Republican Rob Cornilles in this week's special election to replace Oregon 1st District Congressman David Wu, who resigned last year amid a sex scandal.

Bonamici's convincing win didn't surprise many people, but explanations for her success don't always ring true. Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, dismiss the 1st District and Oregon generally as a liberal-leaning part of the Left Coast.

That generalization overlooks the fundamentals that have turned Oregon's 1st Congressional District into a Democratic bastion since 1974, when in the wake of the Watergate scandal Les AuCoin became the first Democrat in state history to capture the congressional seat since it was created in 1893.

Voters in the 1st District, which in the 1970s included Lake Oswego, Lincoln City and more rural areas than now, didn't suddenly change their political philosophy. What happened was the growth of a working Democratic majority, backed by an effective political apparatus that gets out voters who support Democrats.

First District Race a Yawner

David Wu's resignation amid a sex scandal teed up expectations of national media attention to select his successor, as it did when Andrew Weiner resigned after his sexting scandal. Photo by's First Congressional District special election next month has failed to capture national attention as expected. In fact, former Congressman David Wu has attracted more press notice by showing up on Capitol Hill to attend congressional hearings.

Wu's resignation this fall amid a sex scandal involving an under-age woman, which Wu continues to deny, seemingly set the stage for national political theater, akin to what happened in the wake of New York Congressman Andrew Weiner's resignation following a sexting scandal. But it hasn't happened here, at least so far.

To be sure, some national campaign money has flowed in for ads for and against Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles. But neither has been hounded by a horde of reporters from national media. Both are running generally positive ads about themselves and the values they offer. The race as a result has been rather ho-hum.

One leading public opinion poll suggests Bonamici is leading Cornilles by a 52-41 margin, which could account for the lack of interest. If Cornilles was leading, the race would be touted by GOP leaders as a further sign of voter rejection of President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Fox News would be all over the story.

Oregon Race in National Spotlight

The January 31 election of a replacement for former Congressman David Wu is certain to draw national attention, and financial contributions and will serve as the latest test of electoral appeal between Republicans and Democrats.

Individual congressional elections are usually more of a reflection of local political views and constituent issues. However, politics has moved onto a national stage in a contest over issues such as health care, fiscal policy and foreign policy. After Republican Rob Cornilles and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici comfortably won their respective primaries November 8, they immediately plunged into the special general election, which looks to be the first congressional election of 2012.

Bonamici shored up her base by holding a press conference the day after the election with her two major primary opponents, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and Rep. Brad Witt, who both pledged their support.

Cornilles used his first post-primary speech to claim Bonamici supports a huge cut in Medicare.