Debate in Forest Grove: from left, Lisa Michaels, Jim Greenfield (behind Michaels), Rob Cornilles, Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici and Brad Witt (photo/Randy Stapilus)
If you're a candidate, and in a crowd, you want to stand out. Preferably in a good way. The five candidates in the special election for Oregon's 1st district U.S. House seat at Sunday's debate in Forest Grove all stood out, in their various ways.
The debate at Pacific University was not the first of the campaign, but it was one of the first (maybe the first) to feature candidates from both major parties - three each, Democrats (Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Senator Suzanne Bonamici and state Representative Brad Witt) and Republicans (businessman and 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles, Jim Greenfield and Lisa Michaels). The crowd numbered about 60, was well split between partisan supporters, and had lots of patience: The 90-minute forum for public questions followed a nearly 90-minute endorsement interview session for the Forest Grove paper (a Pamplin newspaper; that chain is substantial in Washington County).
In style, Cornilles and Avakian seemed most polished, organized and confident.
The three Democrats differed by degrees on several issues, but not dramatically. Witt was a little stiff and programmatic at first, but settled into a solid comfort level as the debate went on. Bonamici wasn't far off the mark but by comparison seemed to have a soft night in several places. Top issue for all three was employment and the economy, and all favored federal infrastructure spending as a key in the solution. (Bonamici ran through a string of ideas, but didn't put the pieces together.) The Democrats got into no scrapes.
The three Republicans were another story. (more…)