All eyes on … Oregon? Democrats look to retain House seat

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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While Republicans have their fun in the Florida primary this evening, Democrats are eying the special election in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, where they are favored to hold onto the seat vacated by former Rep. David Wu, who resigned in the wake of a sex scandal last year.

The race pits former Democratic state Senator Suzanne Bonamici against Republican businessman Rob Cornilles. The most recent poll, conducted at the beginning of January by Survey USA for KATU-TV in Portland, found Bonamici with an 11-point lead over Cornilles — 50 percent to 39 percent.

Democrats have a voter registration advantage in the district, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has poured $1.3 million into the race.

“We never take any race for granted,” said Jesse Ferguson of the DCCC in an email. “The DCCC made smart, strategic investments in a race where voters aren’t used to special elections to prevent the Republican candidate from hiding his extreme tea party roots and dangerous views on Medicare.”

The National Republican Campaign Committee suggested that even if they did not win the seat, the fact that the Democrats had to spend as much money as they did was good news for Republicans.

“Forcing the DCCC to spend $1.3 million is a testament to the tenacity of the Cornilles campaign,” said John Randall, NRCC e-Campaign Director.

“The DCCC spent $1.3 million to hold a seat that is a D+7 (Obama won with 62.3% of the vote) and has not given a Republican more that 45.4% (Bush in 2004) of the vote in recent elections,” Randall told TheDC. “If the DCCC needs to spend that much money in D+7 seats this fall, they are in trouble.”

The race is serving as a microcosm to test out strategies for the general election, just as special elections in New York and one in Nevada last year did.

The two candidates have been locked in a battle of attack ads in recent weeks, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, focused on Medicare. Bonamici has tried to tie Cornilles to the plan put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, which Democrats say would end Medicare. Democrats successfully used similar tactics in New York’s 26th District, where Democrat Kathy Hochul pulled off an upset in a heavily Republican district.

Bonamici has also challenged the number of jobs her opponent says he created, while Cornilles tried to tie his Democratic opponent to the disgraced Wu and warned she would raise taxes.

Voters in Oregon cast ballots by mail. Ballots must be cast by Tuesday.

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