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1st Congressional District: The ballot fills with hometown hopefuls

Thirteen candidates, including four from Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, throw hats into race for U.S. Rep

The race to fill embattled U.S. Rep. David Wu's seat in Congress is packed. And then some.

Thirteen candidates have lined up for the 1st Congressional District's special election set for early next year, and four of them come from Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood.

Democrats Robert Lettin of Sherwood and Todd Lee Ritter of Tigard join an already crowded field of big name candidates.

On the Republican side, Jim Greenfield of Tigard - who unsuccessfully ran against Wu in 2002 - will face off against current Republican frontrunner Rob Cornilles of Tualatin.

Cornilles ran against Wu last November.

Wu resigned Aug. 3 after seven terms in office after allegations surfaced that he had unwanted and aggressive sexual contact with the 18-year-old daughter of a friend and campaign donor.

The primary elections for both parties is set for Nov. 8, with a general election on Jan. 31.

The Republicans

Cornilles and Greenfield are the two biggest names in the Republican primary. They are both experienced with running for the seat, as they both lost to Wu in previous elections.

Republicans haven't represented the 1st District since 1975, and Cornilles and Greenfield agreed that this is the year the GOP could take back the seat.

'This is a good chance to run when there is no incumbent,' said Greenfield, a Tigard real estate investment manager and former radio host. 'That way the challengers actually have a fair chance to win.'

Cornilles, a Tualatin resident who grew up in Tigard, called the 1st District 'the forgotten district,' saying that the district needs a strong leader after years of ineffective representation.

'We don't need more divisiveness; we need solutions. The games that are being played in Washington aren't funny anymore and our state and country are suffering. I'm not interested in playing politics.'

Cornilles said he doesn't want to run to represent a particular party's ideals, but rather to represent the district as a whole and hopes to bring tea party Republicans and mainline Republicans together.

'For anyone to believe that there's only one way to represent this district, they don't understand what the role of a representative is,' he said. 'It does call for some pragmatism, and calls for some consensus building. You can have some consensus without compromise. You don't have to compromise your principals, and I think I'm ready and qualified to do that.'

Greenfield, with strong tea party ideals, said he plans to reduce the role of government in our everyday lives.

'There is compromise and then there's compromise,' Greenfield said. 'Is it difficult to cut government? It's difficult right now because of who the president is. He can talk about cutting the deficit but he's not doing it. He wants to spend us into oblivion…I'm willing to compromise on certain things but I will not compromise with people who are trying to destroy the American economy by growing government and spending money recklessly. They're recklessly throwing away taxpayer money.'

Greenfield said he supports eliminating government agencies not authorized by the Constitution, such as the departments of health and human services and education.

'What is the federal government doing in education?' he said. 'It has nothing to do with education, that's a state and local function. The closer it is to the parents, the better it is. The federal bureaucracy spends billions of dollars on education and the results we get for it are zero.'

The Democrats

Democrats Lettin and Ritter face an uphill climb to reach the voters against strong contenders, including state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Rep. Brad Witt of Clatskanie and state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton.

Ritter, who splits his time between Tigard and West Linn, said he has been considering this run for office for five years.

Ritter sells textbooks online and says he's running as an 'Average Joe' candidate.

'I feel like getting a bumper sticker that says 'I'm not a lawyer,'' he said. 'We have a disproportionate amount of lawyers and not enough regular people in Congress. I'd like to see an alpaca farmer and an art dealer decide to go back to Washington. We have a disproportionate amount of lawyers and that's not making the process work as smoothly as it can.'

Ritter has several national-level issues he plans to address, including renaming the Department of Homeland Security, pulling out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and says he has plans for the 1st District as well.

'Oregon and the 1st Congressional District are really the pinnacle of American success,' he said. 'It's funny that we are named No. 1, because we are an amazing district.'

But while Ritter has been considering his run for office for years, it was a YouTube video of an irritated small business owner that provided the inspiration for Lettin to throw his hat into the ring,

Lettin, who lives in Sherwood, said he wants to put a stop to the fear mongering among people and political parties.

'This is a great country,' he said. 'And I really don't like this class warfare. I don't like it at all.'

'My feeling on all this is government can't create jobs. They just can't do it,' he said. 'How they do it is they get out of the way of business.'

Lettin, who once served as the Jackson County chairman of the Democratic Party, said he resents political badgering of businesses, and said he doesn't believe fixing the Social Security system is an immediate priority.

Lettin isn't sure if he'll make campaigning a top priority, saying he's prefer to 'roll with the punches.'

'We'll see how it's received,' he said.

- Reporter Ray Pitz contributed to this story