OR-1: Democrats pledge to focus on issues and experience

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

The Democratic Party of Oregon today released a statement that "all Democratic candidates running for the First Congressional District Special Election have pledged, in personal conversations with her, to run a positive campaign in the Democratic Special Primary."

DPO Chair Meredith Wood Smith said, in the statement:

With primary ballots hitting mailboxes in only two months, it's extremely important to keep this campaign focused on issues and experience. I look forward to a positive campaign between our excellent choices for the First Congressional District, and know that all Democrats will rally behind whichever candidate is chosen on November 8th.

The statement also included quotes from the candidates:

Brad Witt:

I am the candidate that reflects the interests and values of the citizens of Congressional District 1--and we're not going to talk negatively about our opponents--because we don't have to.

Brad Avakian:

I commend Chairwoman Wood Smith for her efforts to focus this election on the issues that matter to the families of Northwest Oregon: creating jobs, improving our schools and protecting Medicare and Social Security. I look forward to a vigorous and healthy debate as we go forward in this campaign.

Suzanne Bomamici:

I've never for a moment questioned whether or not to run a positive campaign. It's just who I am. Our country desperately needs more leaders who can rise above partisan squabbles and remember that this is first and foremost about helping millions of families make ends meet in difficult economic times.

Earlier in the week, the chair of the DCCC - Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) - was in town. He met with Bonamici and Avakian, and told Jeff Mapes at the O:

I have told both Suzanne [Bonamici] and Brad [Avakian] that we will support the winner of the primary. We shared with both of them the importance of staying focused on Republican attempts to end Medicare in order to defend special interest tax breaks and not focus on each other...and both said that was their intent.


  • (Show?)

    Full disclosure: My firm built Brad Avakian's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

  • (Show?)

    This seems like a bunch of stuff and nonsense to me. Of course there's going to be some negative comparisons. It's an election.

    I don't like it when people pledge this kind of stuff. It just forces them to break a promise down the road.

    • (Show?)

      Accurate contrasting pieces are fair game, I think. Campaigns are not usually considered "negative campaigns" unless they are both negative and misleading.

      Anyhow, candidates run clean campaigns all the time, and voters often reward them for it. Ron Wyden pulled all of his negative ads during his first campaign against Gordon Smith and won.

      More recently, Frank Morse pledged not to go negative on Dan Rayfield (who went very negative) and absolutely destroyed him, winning 55-45 in a district with a 57-43 registration edge for Democrats despite being outspent nearly 3-1.

      Similarly, there are several analysts and legislators I've spoken with who believe that voters punished the House D's for the misleading negative campaigns that they ran in swing districts around Multnomah County in 2010.

      So, bottom line for me is that it's definitely the right thing for these candidates not to go negative on one another, and my hope is that they will be able to continue it into the general election. At a minimum, the winner should emerge relatively injury-free in a district where Democrats are already seriously wounded.

      • (Show?)

        Well...I think there's going to be negative campaigning. I don't see how it will be avoided.

        I also think your assessment of CD-1 being a place where "Democrats are already seriously wounded" is incredibly off base. Cornilles lost to Wu in a GOP wave election by 12 points. And it's not like Cornilles is some mouth-breathing right winger.

        I think we have to be realistic when it comes to elections. Asking candidates and campaigns to "not go negative" is, in my view, asking them to shine us on.

        • (Show?)

          I'm not saying that the district doesn't lean Democratic... obviously it does, and the Republicans think so too, which is why no top tier candidate is stepping forward.

          But it's not so heavily Democratic that a candidate who emerges seriously wounded from a primary could not lose to a strong opponent in the general.

        • (Show?)

          And Wu was way off his game during that election, to say the least, and he STILL handed Cornilles his ass.

      • (Show?)

        having lived & politicked in that area for a number of years, it should be noted that many of those registered Ds never vote Democratic & haven't since Reagan. a 10-point loss by Rayfield to Morse is not too bad at all.

        • (Show?)

          It's a terrible result.

          When you add up the independent expenditures and in-kind donations, the Rayfield side spent something like $300,000 more than Morse and got about 3000 fewer votes than the Democratic House candidates did in the same district.

          He was fortunate also that Morse refused to go negative. My understanding is that the Republicans had some pretty damaging material that Frank refused to let them use.

  • (Show?)

    For what it was worth, Suzanne Bonamici volunteered that she intended to run a positive campaign even before she was asked, when she attended the 1st CD meeting a week ago. And in the newspaper, Brad praised his opponents even while trying to draw comparisons with them.

    To me, saying "they're good, but I'm even better" is not negative campaigning. Neither is the drawing gentle distinctions in the race in terms of accomplishments.

    But I do understand that this will be tough simply because they're all so accomplished. Just in different things. Brad being labor commissioner is the biggest feather in his cap. Suzanne getting acceptable bi-partisan redistricting done (which hasn't been done in 40 years) is the biggest feather in hers. (I don't know enough about Brad Witt to laud his biggest accomplishment, though I'm sure he has plenty.)

    So how can you choose? I feel if they'd picked each others assignments, they would have done them just as ably.

    • (Show?)

      this isn't major compared to a lot of things, but in this Leg it counts as a job well done: Brad Witt had legislation to combat "finning" of sharks for soup. part of the importance of the bill isn't that it addresses a vicious, cruel practice but that it sets a precedent for other states & countries to follow. so now others can point to Oregon as they push similar laws, and in time, the practice may be eradicated entirely. again, not the same as ending world hunger, but Rep Witt got something meaningful accomplished in a legislative session when most "side projects" didn't see the light of day.

  • (Show?)

    Yeah, I'd like to hear others weigh in on what "negative" campaigning means to them.

    Certainly, I think we can agree that the Willie Horton and Swift Boat sorts of things are beyond the pale.

    But is it "negative" to say, "I voted for the XYZ policy, and I think it's a tremendously good thing. Sadly, my opponent voted against the XYZ policy, and that was a grave error."

    I'd argue that that sort of comparative, fact-based discussion is exactly what political campaigns are supposed to be about.

    Because if you're not talking issues in detail, then you're talking in generalities.

  • (Show?)

    not sure how Avakian & Bonamici are going to differentiate themselves. both have had successful careers in the Leg. both have served in govt. both are locals with kids in local schools. both are dyed-in-the-wool liberals with a great understanding of the changes in politics in recent years. neither is going to give an inch to the Tea Party. this is going to be a tough choice for CD 1 voters. i don't even them.

  • (Show?)

    So we aren't going to see any pictures of George Bush's face on any CD-1 TV ads from the Democrats?

  • (Show?)

    My definition of "going negative" is engaging in the rhetoric of personal destruction/demonization. Suggesting that an opponent may not be as effective in a specific area or set of circumstances does not sink to the level of "going negative." I am personally acquainted with each of these candidates and believe each to be honorable and true to their word.

  • (Show?)

    I agree with Carla and several others here...this is an election and comparisons must be made to differentiate between the candidates and to inform voters of their choices. Sadly, in this business, negative ads move numbers. We all say we don't like them. People say negative ads are awful and candidates eschew them publicly. But candidates use them when they are behind, or ask a third party to put them out to on a candidate's behalf to keep their hands clean. That's reality.

    I do think it's possible to run a campaign cleanly, using issue comparisons. No ominous music. No grainy, unflattering photographs of your opponent. No hyperbolic exaggerations about the true apocalyptic policy desires of the opponent. It could be done...but it's rare, because the audience is moved by something else. Negative ads aren't used until they are needed...or can be justified by the numbers.

    Politics is our gladitorial sport of the age. People want blood. They want to see someone destroyed (or in politics, hoisted on their own petard). This is show-business. It's WWF wrestling with over-the-top caricature personalities, swinging folding chairs and sporting peroxide extensions. We want clean campaigns because we want to feel better about being in the business; To think that it's about good policy and thoughtful governance - no matter what side we are on. But for many of the masses - even some of ourselves if we are honest - when they are alone in the dark with their TV...it is about bread and circus.

    • (Show?)

      "ask a third party to put them out to on a candidate's behalf to keep their hands clean. That's reality."

      Well, no. That's illegal, at least in federal elections. I've worked on a lot, and folks are very, very careful about avoiding even the possibility of accidentally communicating with anyone running an independent expenditure.

      • (Show?)

        Federal elections, yes, that's illegal. Locally...it happens all the time. People don't want to admit it, or they pretend it is coincidental, or insure the candidate has plausible deniability. But there are no saints in this game.

connect with blueoregon