Bonamici Will Run to Replace Wu
Oregon Democratic State Senator Suzanne Bonamici announced Thursday that she will run for former Rep. David Wu's, D-Ore., seat in the January special election and said campaign has raised over a quarter of a million dollars during the last five days.
Bonamici's announcement today follows months of speculation that she would get into the race, after her husband quit as Wu's longtime personal attorney in April. That month, Bonamici announced she had formed an exploratory committee for the seat, but had remained relatively quiet until now. She will face state Rep. Brad Witt and state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in the Democratic primary.
Bonamici's campaign also said that they have raised a staggering $240,000 over the last five days in contributions and pledges. Kevin Looper, a Bonamici spokesperson, said $100,000 of that haul was in the form actual donations, and the rest represents pledges to the campaign. Though Bonamici has yet to contribute to her campaign out of her own coffers, Looper says she plans to in the future.
Because the campaign has gone over the $5,000 contribution limit for an undeclared candidate, they have 15 days to file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. Laura Terrill Patton, another Bonamici spokesperson, said that the campaign has yet to file their paperwork, but said they would do so in the next few days.
In a statement today, Bonamici's campaign said they had outraised both of their Democratic opponents combined, despite the fact that Witt has yet to release his fundraising numbers. Asked for comment, Looper said that if Witt "had a bunch of money," his campaign likely would have announced it already. Witt's campaign director, Katherine Pfeiffer said they were not yet ready to make any fundraising announcements, but welcomed Bonamici to the race. "Our response to Sen. Bonamici['s] announcement: Congratulations! We expect it to be a lively and competitive race and are looking forward to continuing taking our campaign to the voters," Pfeiffer said in an email.
Meanwhile, Avakian raised $195,196 last quarter, according to his financial disclosure report. Asked for a response to Bonamici's fundraising announcement, Avakian spokesperson Jake Weigler questioned how much of that money came from the state Senator's own coffers. In an email, Weigler said that the Avakian campaign has "well exceed(ed) that $240K in contributions and pledges."
Bonamici could be a strong contender in the district. She is well-known in the area and will likely receive support from a number of national and local women's groups. EMILY's List has supported her in the past and it's likely that they would do so again.
State observers are saying that the race will likely come down to a contest between Bonamici and Avakian. Both have strong Democratic support in the district - Bonamici released a list of endorsements today that include former Governor Barbara Roberts, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger and former Rep. Elizabeth Furse, who held Wu's first district seat until her retirement in 1999. Bonamici and Avakian have a long history; she succeeded him in both the state House and the state Senate.
In a statement today, Avakian took a swipe at Bonamici for waiting so long to get into the race. "Now that this is an open seat, it isn't surprising to see others entering the race. Leadership is about standing up, even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. That is why I declared my candidacy over three months ago, saying it was time to replace David Wu," he said.
Wu's 2010 GOP opponent, Rob Cornilles also announced that he will run for the seat, becoming the first Republican candidate in the race. Speaking at Bioject Medical Technologies, Inc., in Washington County Thursday morning, Cornilles called for new leadership in the district, alluding to Wu. "The last several years have been the 'forgotten decade' for northwest Oregon because no one's been fighting for us. ... I'm calling on voters today to raise their expectations of those they elect," Cornilles said.
Though the first district leans heavily Democrat, Cornilles raised over $1 million for his campaign last year and Republicans are hoping that they can leverage voters' distaste for Wu to pick up the seat. Cornilles lost to Wu by 12 points in 2010.
Cornilles released a list of GOP endorsements today, including former Governor Vic Atiyeh, former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., and last year's gubernatorial nominee, Chris Dudley.
Wu submitted his resignation to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Wednesday, triggering a special election for his Portland-based seat. The embattled congressman announced last week that he would resign his seat after the conclusion of the debt ceiling negotiations, following allegations that he sexually assaulted the 18-year-old daughter of a campaign donor.
Kitzhaber's office said Wednesday that a special primary will take place on November 8, 2011, with the general election set for January 31, 2012.