Minutes after taking her oath of office, newly elected U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici went to work, casting her first votes as David Wu's replacement in Oregon's 1st Congressional District.
Following her oath Feb. 7, Bonamici, echoing promises made during the special election process, said she will 'fight to ensure that Congress focuses on rebuilding our economy.'
Bonamici resoundly defeated Republican businessman Rob Cornilles in the Jan. 31 special election by 111,570 votes to 81,985. She had served in the Oregon Senate from May 2008 to November 2011, when she resigned to focus on her campaign.
Her first act in Congress was to cosponsor H.R. 1418, known as the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011. That bill, introduced by a California Republican, would lift the cap on the amount credit unions can lend to small businesses who are members.
Throughout her first day Bonamici was scheduled to meet with a number of groups regarding economic recovery and job creation.
'There are actions Congress can take to encourage job growth and help our economy recover,' Bonamici said in a statement. 'Rebuil-ding our economy is what Oregonians want their member of Congress to focus on, and I'm excited to get to work.'
In Columbia County, Bonamici won by less of a margin than statewide, with 6,924 votes to Cornilles' 5,811. Nearly 52 percent of registered voters in the county took part.
Bonamici's election was celebrated by members of EMILY's List, the nation's largest resource for women in politics. The political action group has provided funding and help to three women who were victorious in their special elections.
'From day one, EMILY's List has stood with Suzanne and we could not be prouder of the race she ran or her victory tonight,' said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List.
This was the second major political race for Cornilles, the founder and president of Tualatin's Game Face Inc., a sports marketing-oriented training and career placement company. He lost to Wu in 2010.
His election night party exuded with confidence that he could win in a congressional district represented by Democrats since the mid-1970s.
Cornilles told supporters that he was disappointed by the loss, but hoped this election would not discourage young people from choosing politics as a way to change things. He urged Bonamici to 'represent our entire district.'
'This campaign taught her that Oregonians are fed up with broken promises, or a Congress that continues to make promises they simply can't keep,' he said.
Cornilles said he had not yet contemplated running again for the 1st Congressional seat in the upcoming May primary and November general election.
Bonamici's defeat of Cornilles is good news for national Democratic Party leaders, but might be bad news for local voters, according to Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University.
As Moore sees it, Bonamici beat Cornilles in the race by harping on the kind of national issues that will dominate this fall's presidential race, like ending tax breaks for the very wealthy and reining in Wall Street excesses. Those national talking points practically drowned out most local issues, Moore says.
'The national campaign themes worked very well for the Democrats,' Moore said on election night.
- Pamplin Media Group reporters contributed to this story.