Oregon CD-1 Special Election wrap up

by Dan Lucas

The District

Oregon’s first congressional district (CD-1) is the second most Democratic district in Oregon, and has been in Democratic hands for 37 years – since Les AuCoin was elected in 1974.

In a post special election analysis, Nathan Gonzales writing in The Rothenberg Political Report, had this to say about Oregon’s first congressional district “most GOP strategists were skeptical that the race was ever winnable because of the partisan nature of the district. Obama performed about five points better in [Oregon’s] 1st District than in New York’s 9th District that Republicans won last year.”

The CD-1 Special Election that ended on January 31, 2012 was the last CD-1 election using the old district boundaries, with a 12.2% Democratic voter registration advantage. The new CD-1 boundaries that will be used in this year’s May primary and November general election will still have a significant Democratic voter registration advantage – somewhere under 11%.

The Results

The Cornilles campaign produced the second best results in CD-1 in the last ten years, second to Rob Cornilles’ 2010 race against David Wu – based on adjusted margin of victory/loss (margin of victory/loss less the district voter registration advantage/disadvantage).

Republican Results in CD-1 – Last 10 Years

1. 2010 – Rob Cornilles / David Wu (-0.5%)
2. 2012 – Rob Cornilles / Suzanne Bonamici (-2.2%) – special election
3. 2004 – Goli Ameri / David Wu (-16.2%)
4. 2006 – Derrick Kitts / David Wu (-25.4%)
5. 2002 – Jim Greenfield / David Wu (-27.4%)

Going back twenty years, the 2012 Special Election Cornilles campaign produced the fifth best Republican results.

Best 5 Republican Results in CD-1 – Last 20 Years

1. 1994 – Bill Witt / Elizabeth Furse (+1.9%)
2. 2010 – Rob Cornilles / David Wu (-0.5%)
3. 1992 – Tony Meeker / Elizabeth Furse (-0.9%)
4. 1998 – Molly Bordonaro / David Wu (-1.7%)
5. 2012 – Rob Cornilles / Suzanne Bonamici (-2.2%) – special election


click on chart to enlarge

The Challenges

The Cornilles campaign faced significant challenges in the 2012 CD-1 Special Election. The biggest challenges were:

  • The 12.2% Democratic voter registration advantage
  • CD-1 voters who leaned so heavily Democratic that they elected David Wu seven times – even after they learned of his attempted rape in college and his other problems over the years

Additionally, the Cornilles campaign was outspent 3-to-1 overall, and 4-to-1 in TV advertising. The campaigns came close in their own fundraising, but Bonamici kicked in money of her own and was helped out tremendously by the Democratic congressional caucus, SEIU, Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood.

Money for TV advertising wasn’t the only support that the Bonamici campaign received from the Democrats. RealClearPolitics reports “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insists it couldn’t take any seat for granted and saw the hefty spending as part of its responsibility. Democrats reported making over 335,000 phone calls and knocking on 148,000 doors.”

Cornilles, on the other hand, received very limited support from the various elements of the Republican Party.


The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) largely stayed on the sidelines, but obviously benefited from and was happy with the Oregon CD-1 race.

NRCC Committee Chairman Pete Sessions told RealClearPolitics “Despite being outspent by his opponent and on the receiving end of an onslaught of false attacks from national Democrats, Rob [Cornilles] kept a deep-blue district in play by fighting for solutions that create Oregon jobs.”

RealClearPolitics also quoted Daniel Scarpinato, a press secretary for the NRCC, who said this election made the Democrats “sweat,” and that’s no small feat. “Their plan to win back the House is basically a fairy tale if they’re spending over a million dollars to retain an Obama district,” he told RealClearPolitics. “If they’re spending this much on a seat that’s in a deep-blue district, then how much are they going to have to spend to win back all these other districts they’re targeting?”