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Candidates line up for wide-open race to replace Wu

Democrats' edge doesn't guarantee election victories
by: JAIME VALDEZ U.S. Rep. David Wu said Tuesday that he plans to resign his congressional post after Congress completes its work on the debt-ceiling issue.

Even though Democrats have a 12-point voter registration edge in the 1st Congressional District, that might not translate into a special election victory for a Democrat trying to succeed U.S. Rep. David Wu, according to Jim Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University.

Moore argues that incumbents are always hard to unseat. After all, Wu was re-elected twice after news broke of inappropriate sexual behavior in college.

'There is more of a chance for the GOP with Wu out,' Moore says. 'Open congressional seats are few and far in between. This will be the best chance for a Republican victory since Wu's first win in 1998.'

Shortly after Wu, a seven-term congressman, announced plans Tuesday morning to resign his congressional post, Gov. John Kitzhaber outlined preliminary plans for both a primary and general election to replace Wu. Kitzhaber could have decided to authorize only one election, allowing Democratic and Republican party officials to choose the nominees. Now the list of potential candidates is larger and the outcome even more unknown.

Names of potential candidates being tossed around in the press highlights that wide-open field. They include the two major Democratic candidates who announced before Wu resigned, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie). State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Cedar Mill) is considered a potential candidate. Kaliko Castille, a political newcomer, is also running in the Democratic primary.

But more Republicans are thought to be considering the race, a sign of the party's belief it can prevail. They include Tualatin businessman Rob Cornilles, who received 42 percent of the vote in his losing 2010 general election campaign against Wu. Another is Stephan Brodhead, who lost to Cornilles in the Republican primary last year.

Two freshman Republican House members from Hillsboro, Katie Eyre Brewer and Shawn Lindsay, both say they're considering a run. Former GOP candidates John Kuzmanich and Doug Keller are also possible challengers.

Perennial candidate Pavel Goberman of Beaverton has already filed.

Despite the sudden burst of interest in the race, is it not yet clear when the elections will be held. Wu says he will resign after Congress completes its work on the debt ceiling issue. His decision came four days after The Oregonian reported that a young woman accused him of making an unwanted sexual advance outside a house in November.

Kitzhaber cannot set election dates until Wu resigns. The secretary of state's office estimates that each election could cost between $400,000 and $500,000.

Moore notes that whoever wins will have to defend the seat in the 2012 elections. Because of redistricting, boundaries for the 1st Congressional District will be different, which could reduce the incumbent's traditional edge.

'They'll have to raise a lot of money to run credible campaigns,' Moore says of the potential candidates.

Only Avakian, with a $124,000 war chest, has reported strong fundraising efforts to the federal elections officials.