Not many true second-tier Northwest congressional races this time: Races where there’s a clear edge to one candidate but involving substantial, significant races not totally locked up. The clearest example, at the moment, looks to be Oregon 1, which has had a fuzzy aspect because of the large number of candidates.
It begins to clarify, though: This looks like a November contest of incumbent Democrat David Wu against Republican Rob Cornilles.
It’s a second-tier race to begin with because there’s an entrenched incumbent in a district where his party is in the majority, and there’s no real scandal or crosswise-with-the-district issue that looks anywhere close to a career-killer. He hasn’t had a close call since his first election in 1998, and in 2008 (when he pulled 71%) didn’t even have a Republican opponent.
The Oregon 1st is anchored by Washington County (west of Portland, and including Beaverton and Hillsboro), which a decade ago leaned Republican but now leans Democratic. It also includes western Portland, Yamhill County (which leans Republican but less than it once did) and the St. Helens-Astoria area (strongly Democratic). This is, at present, a Democratic district.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing for a challenger to work with: The 2004 college scandal, the 2005 t-shirt issue, the 2008 Klingon speech. Wu’s town hall meetings from last year were a part of the contentious Tea Party summer, and though our take was that Wu handled them pretty well, opinions varied. And as a usually loyal member of the Democratic House caucus on matters from health care to finance and beyond, how you think about Wu will related to how you think about what Congress has been doing.
And Wu has a primary challenge from David Robinson of Beaverton. Robinson’s appearances and statements suggest a calm, centrist Democrat interested most strongly on economic development and defense. But based on what we’ve seen, he’s subtle at best about why he should oust Wu in the Democratic primary. With little evidence of strong funding or organization, Wu doesn’t seem much threatened in in the May primary.
Four candidates filed on the Republican side: Cornilles, Stephan Andrew Brodhead, John Kuzmanich and Douglas Fitzgerald Keller – none terribly well known. Keller has raised little money; Kuzmanich has raised some more (and angled for some visibility at Dorchester). But the contest looks as of it may come down to Cornilles and Brodhead.
We first spotted Brodhead last summer passing out cool drinks at summer town hall events – winning a little gratitude right there. He has self-funded to a considerable degree – $298,300 according to reports as of the end of last year, and apparently more since. One problem is that he doesn’t seem to have attracted a lot of other contributors, and doesn’t seem to have a lot of organization. His website suggests inexperience in running and a quirky smattering of issues, some of it matching up with general Republican views and some outside the box. (He may be one of the few candidates to emphatically say, “Update Air Traffic Control grid to latest computer and moving map display technology” – not to criticize the idea, which certainly makes sense.)
He has some money to spend, but Cornilles (whose signs have been more visible around the 1st than anyone else’s) has the overall range of assets that suggest the nomination is his to lose. His funding seems to be not far off Brodhead’s, and it’s contributions rather than self-funding. He has an experienced campaign core, and he has been making himself visible and fitting into the national political discussion, making regular responses to Wu’s statements and stands. He seems too to be the one Republican of the four to attract some national Republican attention; the House Republican committee gave his campaign status as a “contender” back in February.
Odds in the first is that after the May dust clears, it’ll be Wu and Cornilles.
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