Contenders Line Up for Wu’s Seat

Following Democratic Congressman David Wu’s decision to resign, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced publicly that he intends to announce a date for a special primary election for the 1st District seat that will give the Secretary of State sufficient time for an election. However, the announcement of the date is pending Wu’s “official” resignation, which will be after the debt ceiling vote.

Two candidates on the Democratic side—Brad Avakian and Brad Witt—have announced their candidacy prior to the Wu announcement. It is expected that State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici will announce on the Democratic side next week.

On the Republican side, Rob Miller, a Portland businessman who heads a Gresham-based food manufacturer, stated that he is seriously looking at running for the seat. Miller, the president of Trailblazer Foods, is the first potentially strong Republican candidate to surface, but party Chair Allen Alley said they have a number of potential candidates. Tualatin sports marketer Rob Cornilles, who ran against Wu last year, has not ruled out running again but has also not made any affirmative moves toward another candidacy.

Other names in the paper or by rumor are former Wu opponent Molly Bordonaro, State House Rep. Shawn Lindsay and previous candidate Paul Evans. There will also be some tea party candidates exploring the race.

It should be clear by the Oregon Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) meeting on Aug. 9 who the candidates are; their connections and support of credit unions will be on the agenda. Here is some background on each: 

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian – Democrat
Avakian graduated from Aloha High School and Oregon State University. He went on to law school at Lewis & Clark while also working as the manager of the YMCA Juvenile Restitution Program. The program mentored troubled youth, putting them to work to help them repay victims of their crimes.

After completing his degree, Avakian founded his own small business, a small law practice dedicated to protecting the civil rights of working people. He fought for fair wages, for safe working conditions and against discrimination.

First elected to the Oregon Legislature in 2002, Avakian won election to the State Senate in 2006. Since becoming Oregon Labor Commissioner in 2008, Avakian has eliminated a four-year backlog of worker complaints of civil rights and wage violations, recovering more than $10 million for those who have been treated unfairly. The agency has debarred contractors who were violating prevailing wage laws to cheat their employees and undercut competitors who play by the rules. And he’s done all of this while finding savings and efficiencies to cut $300,000 from the agency’s budget.

State Rep. Brad Witt – Democrat
Witt represents Oregon’s House District 31, stretching 90 miles along the Columbia River from Sauvie Island to Astoria. 

Witt is a graduate of UMass-Amherst and received his master’s degree from the University of Oregon. He has been a sawmill worker; a union representative in the seafood, grocery and forest industries; and the elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO for 14 years. Prior to entering the State Legislature, Witt served on the state boards of Forestry, Watershed Enhancement, Workforce Enhancement, Workers’ Compensation and Forest Resources Institute. He also served as co-chair of the bi-state Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership. Witt is currently serving his fourth term in the Oregon Legislature.

State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici – Democrat
Bonamici put herself through college and law school at the University of Oregon before going to work as a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. She was in private law practice when she moved back to Oregon.

Bonamici took a career break to raise her children and volunteered for education, arts and civic organizations. In 2001, she worked as a legislative assistant in the Oregon House of Representatives. She was elected to serve as a member of the Oregon House in 2006 and was appointed and then elected to the Oregon Senate in 2008 and 2010. Suzanne and her husband, Michael Simon, have been married for 25 years. They have two grown children and a cocker spaniel named Charley.

Rob Miller – Republican
Miller, a Portland businessman who heads a Gresham-based food manufacturer,
Trailblazer Foods, is the first potentially strong Republican candidate to surface in the district for 2012. Miller said he believes that the “Northwest Oregon is severely under-represented in Congress,” and that rather than “sitting around moping about it, I’m interested in doing something.”

Miller said one potential complication is that he now lives three blocks outside the district in Southwest Portland because of the congressional redistricting plan approved by the Legislature.

While he only needs to be a resident of the state to run for the seat, Miller said he wants to make sure it is not an issue with voters. He noted that in his personal life, he spends much of his time in the district. He has a second home there and goes to a church located in the 1st, he said.
Miller said he is primarily concerned about the “economic future of Oregon and Oregonians” and that he would be supporting “pro-growth” policies.

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal.