Democrat Susan Bonamici is such an embarrassment to her party, that national Democrats have been forced to dump at least $1.5 million into her efforts to win a special election in Oregon’s First District – a district Obama won with 62 percent of the vote in 2008. The district covers the northwest corner of the state, including southwest Portland.
Why is Bonamici such a disaster?
For starters, she is closely associated with disgraced ex-Congressman David Wu, who resigned last year in the wake of allegations that he made sexual advances on a teenage girl – prompting this special election. It wasn’t Wu’s first scandal. In 2004, The Oregonian reported that Wu was disciplined in college for sexually assaulting an ex-girlfriend. A string of other accusations from former staff finally let to Wu’s demise.
Bonamici’s husband was Wu’s personal attorney, and in addition to donating to his campaign, she herself called Wu “a friend.”
Beyond that, Bonamici brings a great deal of baggage to the race from her time in the state Legislature, having voted with her party a whopping 98 percent of time. This coupled with frequent gaffs – (she told a local television station that she couldn’t ever recall voting against a tax increase) – has left her on the defense in a year when voters are largely turning against the big-government, big-spending agenda that is Obama’s legacy.
Bonamici has embraced these policies, along with Obama’s takeover of healthcare.
In fact, Bonamici doesn’t think Obamacare care went far enough, saying she actually supported a full “public option” and calling the 2,000-plus page bill “a first step.” That bill, by Nancy Pelosi’s own admission, took half a trillion dollars out of Medicare.
Also telling from a national perspective is that Bonamici is finding herself anchored down by Obama, in a district that went heavily for the president in 2008, a foreshadowing of big problems for the Democrats in November.
As a state legislator, Bonamici continuously voted for higher taxes and fees on the middle class and small business. When she denied doing so, one local fact checker gave her a “Pants on Fire” rating.
The Portland Oregonian said it best, reporting that Bonamici has “no record of job creation” and “has racked up one of the most liberal voting records of any lawmaker in Salem during her five years in the Legislature.”
She was the only lawmaker present to vote against a bill that cracked down on drunken drivers who refused to take a blood or breath test, preventing them from quickly regaining their driving privileges. In 2008, she was one of only a handful of lawmakers to vote against a bill barring illegal immigrants from getting drivers’ licenses.
But what has really made national Democrats sweat in a district that would otherwise be considered non-competitive is a strong Republican candidate in Rob Cornilles. The owner of a sports management company, he has run a strong campaign with significantly less resources than Bonamici.
Cornilles’ candidacy has forced Democrats to open their wallets – big time. The Democratic National Congressional Committee has reserved nearly $1.3 million in ad time. And a PAC associated with Nancy Pelosi has poured another $200,000 into the race, attacking Cornilles. Emily’s List is also investing heavily.
Yet Cornilles has managed to close that gap against this flawed candidate. A recent poll released by his campaign showed him just 4 points behind Bonamici in a district that should be blue-deep. Cornilles, however, has forced Democrats to bleed valuable cash from their campaign coffers as they head into the 2012 cycle.