Republican candidate Rob Cornilles and Democratic state Sen. Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciInvesting to produce more skilled workers must be part of rebuilding America Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — China's president to video in for climate confab We can and will meet the climate test in the Build Back Better Act MORE handily defeated their primary opponents Tuesday in Oregon’s 1st congressional district.
The two will face off in a January general election to replace former Rep. David Wu (D), who resigned in August amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances on a teenager.
Early returns showed Cornilles winning more than 70 percent of the GOP primary vote and Bonamici winning support from 66 percent of Democrats.
The results of the primary, which was conducted completely through mail-in ballots, offered few surprises. Polling in the race had showed both Bonamici and Cornilles with commanding leads over their primary opponents.
Although the district is considered safe Democratic territory, Democrats are eager to win the race by a wide margin, in part to rebut concerns about President Obama’s low approval ratings dragging down Democratic candidates. Those concerns were amplified in September when the GOP scored wins in special House elections in Nevada and New York.
Democratic groups in Washington have placed their hopes in Bonamici to hold on to the House seat. She has been heralded by EMILY’s List, a PAC that supports Democratic women who favor abortion rights, and brought in a striking $600,000 during the third quarter of 2011. Her Democratic opponents each raised less than $200,000, while Cornilles pulled in slightly more than $500,000.
This is the second consecutive bid for the seat for Cornilles, who lost to Wu by just 7 percentage points in 2010 after early details of the Democratic lawmaker’s erratic behavior emerged.
In the final weeks before the primary, Cornilles got into a tiff with Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerSenate candidate Gary Chambers discusses his opposition to criminalizing marijuana Lobbying world Congress to take up marijuana reform this spring MORE (D-Ore.), whose Portland-area district neighbors the one Cornilles is seeking, over a television ad Cornilles aired that looked remarkably similar to one Blumenauer aired in 1996.
Democrats also pushed the message that Cornilles is more conservative than he is letting on, accusing him of running to the center to appease voters. A website launched one week before the primary, www.TheRealRobCornilles.com, reminded voters of his family’s wealth and comments from two years ago calling himself the original Tea Party candidate.
“Oregonians can’t trust Rob Cornilles, who is willing to say anything to get elected,” Trent Lutz, the state Democratic Party’s executive director, said when the website was launched.
While special elections always attract less attention and generally have low voter turnout, the general election on Jan. 31 will run up against an additional distraction: the presidential primary in Florida, a key swing state with a major role to play in selecting the Republican nominee.