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Strong field is good for 1st District race

We'll be looking for candidates who can demonstrate support from throughout the district.

When the dust cleared after last week's filing deadline passed, there emerged a strong field of 13 candidates running to fill the open First Congressional District seat vacated by the resignation of David Wu.

The Democratic hopefuls include three current office-holders: state Rep. Brad Witt, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici and state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.

For Republicans, two of the candidates have run for the post before: Tigard businessman Rob Cornilles made a strong bid against Wu last year while Jim Greenfield got trounced in 2002.

The candidates (eight Democrats, five Republicans) have a variety of life experiences that mirror the diversity of the sprawling First District.

There's a winery owner from Gaston, a textbook dealer from Marylhurst, a former Congressional aide from Sherwood and former mill worker from Clatskanie.

To be sure, in a field of 13, there are bound to be a few candidates who won't make serious runs and we don't plan to waste much ink on them. But we're glad to see more than a half-dozen who seem poised to make serious bids and we look forward to helping voters learn more about them between now and the Nov. 8 primary election.

As the candidates gear up their campaigns, we'll be looking for pledges to break from the toxic partisanship that is poisoning Congress.

We understand that to win the November vote, candidates will need to appeal to members of their own party. But those who demonize the other side on the campaign trail will have a hard time convincing us that they will be able to play a constructive role on Capitol Hill.

We'll also be looking for candidates who can demonstrate support from throughout the district and offer specific ideas about the challenges facing its residents.

We care less about their views on President Obama and Speaker Boehner than their take on federal regulation of the West Coast salmon fisheries.

We expect that they'll have a stand on gay marriage, but will be more interested in their ideas about what (if anything) to do about the spike in raw log exports to China.

They are free to make pledges regarding taxes, but we'll be more impressed if they can articulate a coherent plan to curb illegal immigration while still providing the workers needed by employers in the district.

In short, we're looking at the race as a job interview, and it's an employer's market. The primaries offer a good first-round screening for voters in both major parties who, for a change, will have plenty of options as they look to fill an important vacant position.