"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

OR CD 1: The Independent debate

Here was something unusual: a Democratic congressional nominee, and a Republican congressional nominee, appearing at a debate where the ostensible purpose is to gain the support of another party: The Independent Party of Oregon.

The Independents aren’t nominating their own contender, but are – present tense – sending in ballots to determine which of the contenders, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles, their party will endorse. This may have been the first televised debate – it was aired by KATU 2 Portland and staged in its studio – the party has had. It’s a turning point. It may be a turning point for the candidates, though to what effect isn’t yet clear. There’s some view that, given the Democratic tilt of the 1st congressional district, Cornilles will need the Independent support to win and may not be able to win without it, while a Bonamici backing by the party could nearly foreclose a Cornilles win.

Either way, neither candidate seemed to conclusively seal the deal tonight: There were no serious body blows or major gaffes. (The station has posted it in full online.)

There were missed opportunities, though.

Cornilles reiterated the debunked argument that the Affordable Care Act (which he took care to call by its correct name, as opposed to Obamacare) would cut $500 billion from Medicare; the lowered budget amounts refer to savings from efficiencies and other improvements rather than diminished benefits, a point Bonamici could have made but didn’t. (She noted the claim had been blasted by Politifact, which is true, but probably wasn’t much absorbed by many viewers.) When Cornilles cited a statistic about how Bonamici, in one survey, voted with her state Senate caucus 98% of the time, she responded that the statistic isn’t fairly representative of the work or votes done there – which is also true, but could have been turned into a stronger point about Cornilles’ lack of legislative experience.

Bonamici was asked about illegal immigration, and spent her answer talking about how she’s like to get people around a table to hash out an answer. That table made its appearance several times; Cornilles could have hacked away at that crutch, but didn’t.

Cornilles’ best line, which he’d surely like to be a frame for his argument, came when he said “My opponent wants to defend the system; I want to fix it.” Piece of his debate fit into that frame; other parts didn’t.

Bonamici’s best moment came in a question about the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on campaign spending, after a detailed response from Cornilles (which avoided the core impacts of the decision). She had time for a 30-second rebuttal, but smartly limited it to one memorable reposte: “I don’t happen to believe that a corporation is a person.”

Independent Party voting is supposed to conclude on Tuesday, and we should know the winner within a day or two after that.

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