Rob Cornilles is the underdog in the race for Oregons 1st district, but Democrats are still committing $1 million for ads attacking him.
Even between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Bonamici’s campaign didn’t take much of a holiday break. Outside the campaign headquarters, eight small “Bonamici for Congress” yard signs along Millikan Way guide people into the Cedar Hills Crossing office park, which also includes a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Inside, handmade signs blanket the walls, and there was talk of a late-lunch run to Five Guys as staff members got ready for a volunteer rally that evening.
But when Bonamici staffers leave their office, they are greeted by a handful of large “Cornilles for Congress” signs strategically positioned across the intersection as a reminder of the ongoing battle.
The Republican’s campaign headquarters is just a couple of miles away, but there’s a significant contrast in the neighborhood, and the office space is a microcosm of the race thus far.
The Bonamici for Congress campaign is down the street from a new shopping center that features the local specialty grocer, New Seasons Market; a satellite location for the famous Powell’s Books; a Sports Authority; and a movie theater. Cornilles’ campaign is close to a pawn shop and a “full-service” cat hospital and is in the kind of old office building that requires a key to use the restroom.
While Bonamici and the state Democratic Party share offices, Cornilles has space, on his own, that is at least a third of the size of the Democrats’. But he’s not worried about being alone.
“They didn’t knock me off my saddle. They’ve emboldened me,” Cornilles said from his campaign headquarters late last week, referring to the half-million dollars in DCCC attack ads against him. At least another half-million in ads targeting him is scheduled in the final weeks while Republican groups remain on the sidelines.
Minutes before, Cornilles was delivering red meat in a radio interview with state GOP Chairman Allen Alley, who was sitting in for Northwest conservative talk staple Lars Larson.
“When the spotlight is on her, she doesn’t like it,” Cornilles said of Bonamici.
Waiting for Reinforcements
But unless or until GOP groups get in, the Republican businessman will have to carry the fight alone against Bonamici.
This week, Cornilles took to the airwaves criticizing his opponent for being one of the most liberal state legislators, not voting against tax increases and not creating jobs. It’s the first time in her political career that she’s been attacked on television. Recent columns by the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes and in Willamette Week gave both sides ample ammunition for their 30-second ads.
“I’m proud of my career and my record,” Bonamici told Roll Call before the attacks even made it to the airwaves and before heading south for an editorial board meeting in McMinnville last week. Democratic strategists understand the attacks have the potential to damage their nominee, but they remain confident that their messages against Cornilles are stronger.
The DCCC has used some of the Republican’s past statements to paint him as the “original tea party candidate,” and Democrats will go after his record as a businessman by saying his rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of his success.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.