Few voters in Oregon's 1st Congressional District will miss U.S. Rep. David Wu.
First elected in 1998, Wu resigned last August after exhibiting bizarre behavior and, ultimately, facing allegations he had made improper sexual advances to a teenage girl.
Despite Wu's work as an intellectual property lawyer prior to running for office, he never really clicked with Washington County's tech sector. Nor did he enjoy a strong reputation for constituent service among the rural and agricultural sectors of his district, which stretches from Portland's west side to Astoria and down to the central coast.
On Jan. 31, residents of the district will vote in a special election to replace Wu. The best choice on the ballot is state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton).
A lawyer and educational advocate prior to entering the Oregon House of Representatives in 2007, Bonamici, 57, has spent much of her time in Salem on consumer protection issues. She pushed for a better deal for homeowners facing foreclosure and helped expel payday lenders from Oregon.
Because of her diligence and attention to detail, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) last year selected her over more senior colleagues to lead the always-controversial job of redrawing legislative district boundaries. Bonamici completed that task without the help of the secretary of state or the courts, the first time in 60 years that has happened.
In many ways she's like her former legislative colleague, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.): smart, dogged and dull.
After Wu's antics, dull is good.
Bonamici's chief opponent is Tualatin businessman Rob Cornilles. Cornilles, 47, ran a creditable race against Wu in 2010, losing with 42 percent of the vote. He is pleasant, blessed with a nice smile and the gift of gab.
Other than that race against Wu, however, Cornilles has no political experience and a thin record of community service. He's running, then, on his record as a "job creator." That's a stretch.
Since 1995, Cornilles has run a company called Game Face Inc., which helps sports teams sell more tickets and also does executive recruiting for teams. WW's reporting shows that Game Face is a company in decline, having reached its peak size of 22 employees nearly a decade ago. Today the company has no office and employs only four people other than Cornilles and his wife, Allison.
If starting and running a struggling small business were all it took to serve in Congress, Oregon would have tens of thousands of candidates ready to go to Washington.
In his policy statements, Cornilles has been inconsistent. He blasts tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals, but in 2011 proposed a renovation of Memorial Coliseum built on millions of dollars' worth of tax breaks. He appeared at a 2010 tea party rally in front of a rack of guns but is so eager to attract independent voters he never mentions in campaign materials that he's a Republican.
Cornilles is at his best when he criticizes Bonamici's reflexive support for the Democratic platform, and suggests that he would be more independent. It's true that he's broken with conservative Republicans in a number of areas, including their opposition to what they call Obamacare. But his moderate stances feel less like independence than an acknowledgement he's running in a district with a 12-percentage-point Democratic advantage—and that he needs a job. Besides, his résumé simply cannot match the accomplishments of Bonamici.
Libertarian James Foster, a Beaverton software engineer (who, like Bonamici, once served as a Federal Trade Commission lawyer), and Progressive Party candidate Steven Reynolds, a disabled West Point graduate, are also running.
Foster is a thoughtful candidate whose calm demeanor belies a fierce opposition to government interference in just about anything, while Reynolds, whose post-military adventures included a stint as a pot smuggler, seems personally adrift. Neither has mounted a serious campaign. Vote for Bonamici.