Oregon could have major impact on 2012 presidential race
Oregon’s January special election could have far-reaching implications for the future of the Congress of the United States.
The election is being held to determine the House representative of Oregon’s First Congressional District and will take place on Jan. 31.It will feature Democrat Suzanne Bonamici, Republican Rob Cornilles, Libertarian James Foster and Progressive Steven Reynolds as candidates. Bonamici is considered the favorite, with Cornilles as the strongest challenger.
The final day to register to vote for the election is Jan. 10. Unregistered First District residents can register online at oregonvotes.org.
Bonamici, 57, has served in Oregon legislature since 2006 when she was elected to the state’s House of Representatives. She was then elected as the state Senate’s 17th District representative in 2008. After Congressman David Wu resigned in August of 2011, Bonamici announced her intention to run as his replacement. In November, Bonamici won the Democratic primary election for Oregon’s First Congressional District in a landslide, taking 66 percent of the vote. Also in November, she won the Independent Party of Oregon primary election by a 64-36 margin over Cornilles, thus helping to establish her as the favorite in the special election.
Cornilles, 47, originally ran against Wu in 2010 in the Oregon First Congressional District election, but lost by a 55-43 margin. After Wu’s resignation, Cornilles decided to run for the Republican nomination in the resulting special election. In the November Republican primary, Cornilles won in overwhelming fashion, collecting 73 percent of the vote. He faces a steep challenge in the special election, however, as Democrats have held political prominence in Oregon’s First Congressional District every year since 1974.
Foster, 53, graduated with a law degree from UCLA and then moved into the field of computer engineering in 1981, shortly after joining the Libertarian Party. He currently works as a software engineer in Beaverton. On Sept. 28, the Libertarian Party of Oregon held a nomination to decide which of their members would run in the January special election. Foster won, narrowly beating out Chuck Huntting.
Reynolds, 33, is a former lieutenant in the United States Army. After serving in Kuwait, Reynolds joined and later graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he gained his rank of lieutenant. In 2004, he was honorably discharged after sustaining an injury. He has since supported the Oregon Progressive Party. In an unprecedented decision, he was elected by the Oregon ProgressiveParty in November as the nominee to run in the January special election; the party had never previously nominated a member.
The winner of the special election will then need to immediately start campaigning for the November 2012 general election in order to begin a new term as an Oregon House Representative. From the end of January through November, the winning candidate in the special election will be serving out the remainder of the term of former Oregon Representative David Wu.
The long-term importance of the election outcome primarily lies in the outcome discrepancy between the two favorites, Bonamici and Cornilles, as they are the two major party candidates. The differential between the Democratic and Republican results could greatly foreshadow the upcoming 2012 presidential election.
“The race is going to be scrutinized by both parties because it’s a special election during an election year, and everyone is eager to see how the Democrats will perform,” said Josh Lederman, a Washington, D.C. writer for the political publication The Hill. “This House race is significant because it’s in a vacuum; it’s the only one happening right now…You’re seeing lots of national interest to use this race to fight a proxy battle for November. That’s particularly the Washington, D.C. view of it.”
Lederman believes that the race revolves around one key issue, and the ability that each candidate has to resolve it.
“This entire race is about jobs because that’s all anyone cares about right now,” Lederman said. “Ask Bonamici what she wants to do, she launches into a speech about jobs. Cornilles is also going to talk nonstop about jobs, and he’s got an advantage because he’s a business owner. You’re probably not going to see a significant focus on any issue that’s not about jobs and the economy.”
Ballots for the election will be mailed to prospective voters anywhere from 14 to 18 days before the election date, and the election will be taking place entirely via mail-in ballots. Ballots can be deposited at a number of different locations, including the Central Library, Pioneer Courthouse Square and all of the sites listed on the official State of Oregon Voter Ballot Drop Box Locator website at sos.state.or.us/dropbox/.