Rob Cornilles at McMinnville/Randy Stapilus
It wasn't a debate exactly - maybe something like an abbreviated Lincoln/Douglas, since Republican Rob Cornilles and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici each got an extended period, in sequence, to pitch themselves, and did not engage each other. But for those (such as us) who've seen them before individually, but not giving stump speeches, it was useful.
A few observations. (First, a disclaimer: The event was organized by the MacMinnville Chamber of Commerce and the McMinnville City Club, of both of which we are members.)
Cornilles is a gifted public speaker. The Oregonian article today outlining his business, which noted that at times he could speak for hours on end and still keep an audience attentive and interested, seems not far off. Though he spoke long enough at this event to put that to the test; his stump speech was longish, felt that way, and was about twice as long as Bonamici's.
It was well organized, though, and simple. The rationale for his candidacy was based simply around creating jobs and his business experience. His plan was geared to three bullet points: Simplifying and making more predictable the federal tax code, encouraging foreign trade as long as it's fair, and balancing the federal budget. His speech didn't range far from those subjects. It did not have an especially partisan ring to it, and he even acknowledged some concerns from the left about trade and "mega-corporations" (his word, and one not often heard from Republican candidates).
He believes, he said, in solving problems rather than "pointing fingers." Seconds later, though, he said this: "We've been electing lawyers turned politicians for years now. How do you like the results?" Bonamici, not coincidentally, is an attorney.
He also fired off in passing several other shots at the opposition, accusing her (implicitly) of being a lockstep partisan (using the 98% voting record stat) and suggesting that the million dollars national Democrats are reportedly putting into the race will go to negative TV spots (and "Let's send the message that we're tired of more of the same").
Suzanne Bonamici at McMinnville/Randy Stapilus
Bonamici isn't as polished, but she's a tougher and crisper speaker than when the race began, and she outlined her economic approach at least as efficiently (emphasizing provision of capital for small businesses and infrastructure development, as well as trade). She brought up (in effect) the abortion issues which Cornilles hadn't, contrasting her pro-choice views with his pro-life position. (That's a rough shorthanding on a subject surely not done yet.)
She also responded effectively to Cornilles' shots. She said a study of her legislative voting showed that she votes with Republicans about as much as with Democrats, since so much of legislative activity is necessarily bipartisan. And she got a useful question on the lawyer-as-politician idea from Yamhill Commissioner Mary Stern, who also happens to be an attorney. Bonamici said that her experience as a legislator and attorney is helpful in getting the work done, and she didn't know any other line of work "where experience is a bad thing."