PORTLAND – Determined not to lose another friendly district because of a sex scandal, Democrats and their allies have pumped more than $1 million into an Oregon special election race that has turned into a vicious exchange of attacks over the airwaves.
Voters are deciding who should replace former Rep. David Wu, a seven-term Democrat who resigned last year following a string of bizarre news stories that began with photos of the congressman wearing a tiger costume and ended with a young woman’s accusation that he made an unwanted sexual advance.
Republican Rob Cornilles, 47, a sports business consultant, has tried hard to extend the scandal that brought down Wu to the Democrat who wants to take his place, former state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, 57. She says the race is about the future, not about Wu.
Democrats have represented the district since 1975, and its voters overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama.
But Democrats do not want to see a repeat of what happened last year in a heavily Democratic New York district, when a Republican won a special election after Rep. Anthony Weiner acknowledged sending provocative text messages and resigned.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.3 million to boost Bonamici. Political committees for a union, abortion-rights groups and a super PAC allied with Democrats have also chipped in with their own mail or television ads.
Democrats likened their investment to an insurance policy to avoid any doubts about the party’s strength that would inevitably follow a loss in a liberal state like Oregon. The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent just $85,000.