Suzanne Bonamici, Rob Cornilles Advance to Oregon Special Election

Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:52pm

Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles won their respective primaries today and will face off in a January special election for Oregon’s 1st district.

The two are competing to replace former Rep. David Wu (D), who resigned in August after allegations surfaced of an “unwanted sexual encounter” with a woman. The Portland-based district has been represented by a Democrat for nearly 40 years, and state Sen. Bonamici is favored to hold the seat against Cornilles, a professional sports franchise consultant.

The Associated Press called the races for Bonamici and Cornilles tonight, and both lead with at least two-thirds of the vote in their primaries, according to unofficial results posted by the Oregon secretary of state. Ballots in the mail-only election were due by 11 p.m. EST.

Unlike the GOP primary, the Democratic race had the potential to be competitive. But Bonamici led the way in fundraising, polling and TV ads, and by today a Bonamici loss would have been a surprise to Democrats in the state.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) hailed Bonamici as the “clear choice in this special election” in a statement and applauded her and her leading Democratic competitors, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt, on running “great races.” Avakian congratulated Bonamici on her victory in a statement and wished her luck in January.

The nominees will begin the campaign for the Jan. 31 special at the start of the holiday season, when most voters aren’t paying attention to politics, especially Congressional campaigns.

Voters may not tune in until the new year, when the race will be overshadowed nationally by the opening month of the Republican presidential nominating process. The election falls on the same day as the pivotal Florida primary.

Despite the Democrats’ edge in this district, which stretches from Portland to the Pacific coast, the party is taking no chances after losing a September special election for a seat based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Still, neither national party is expected to expend significant money in Oregon unless polling shows the race beginning to tighten.

Cornilles, who reported having $422,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 19, is running as an independent Republican. He came up well short in a challenge to Wu a year ago, and he has said that this election gives voters the chance for a “do-over.”

Bonamici, a former consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, is running as a consumer advocate with a legislative record of accomplishment.

She had $221,000 in cash on hand on Oct. 19 after a heavy TV advertising campaign for the primary. She had raised $655,000 by that point, including a $200,000 personal loan.