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Rep.-elect Suzanne Bonamici's last name translates to "good friends" in Italian. The newest member of the Democratic Caucus hopes her state legislative experience proves that Democrats and Republicans can not only be friends, but can actually accomplish things.
Getting work done is a top goal for Bonamici, who brings a lawyerly precision to legislating. She said being "effective and responsive" are her top goals for her first House term.
Bonamici, who will be sworn in Tuesday, won Oregon's 1st district special election Jan. 31. She bested sports marketing company owner Rob Cornilles by
14 points and won every county in the district. Now the sole female Member in the Oregon delegation, she is expected to be a liberal voice on consumer protection issues, energy and education policies.
Joining the GOP-controlled House, Bonamici has applicable mediation experience: In 2011, she was part of a joint legislative committee that successfully produced new redistricting maps for the state's legislative and Congressional districts — a surprising feat, considering the legal battles and furor many state mapping commissions face.
"Was everyone 100 percent happy? Of course not," she said Wednesday, following her win. "But the strong bipartisan support that was shown in both chambers was a sign that people can actually work together across chambers and across the aisle and get things done."
Bonamici was born in Michigan and moved to Oregon, where she put herself through community college and then received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Oregon.
In her first job after law school, she worked as a consumer protection lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s. During that time, she met her husband, Michael Simon, who is now a federal judge. They moved back to Oregon in 1986, and Bonamici entered into private law practice.
She took time to raise her two children and then served as an aide in the Oregon Legislature.
In her first bid for public office, she served in the Oregon House for a year; she was appointed to the state Senate in 2008. She held that post until November, when she resigned to seek the 1st district seat left vacant by the resignation of former Rep. David Wu (D).
Bonamici said education is a passion. She hopes to have a seat on the Education and Workforce Committee, though there are currently no vacancies on the panel.
She said she was encouraged by President Barack Obama's focus on education during his State of the Union address; she wants to see more funding for schools.