Bonamici took time out to raise children, then began working as a legislative aide in 2001. When Avakian moved from the state House to the Senate in 2006, she won his seat, and moved up to his Senate position when he was named labor commissioner.
As a lawmaker, Bonamici quickly earned a reputation for honesty and diligence, if not charisma. In her first Senate session, she chaired the Consumer Protection and Public Affairs Committee. Her focus on consumer issues might have alienated many lobbyists, but she instead won widespread respect. In WW’s “The Good, the Bad and the Awful” rankings of metro-area legislators in 2009, she ranked near the top among senators. In 2011, she was No. 1.
Bonamici can come across as overly cautious. She’s declined to say whether she would support the controversial free-trade agreements. She’s earned the wrath of some in her party’s left wing because she’s equivocated, saying she doesn’t have enough information to take a position.
It’s hard to imagine Bonamici is running for Congress and doesn’t yet know what she thinks about free trade. She could be trying to navigate the economic and political realities of a trade-dependent district, which leaves her sounding wishy-washy.
That’s a knock against Bonamici, but not a big enough one to discount her. She is studious, hard-working and a consensus builder, and she possesses an ego that is, uncharacteristically for a politician, civilian-sized.
That’s why Senate President Peter Courtney chose her to lead the 2011 process for redrawing legislative and congressional boundaries. Redistricting is perhaps the most contentious and politically important duty any lawmaker could tackle. And to do so successfully, as she did, shows the skills to bargain, negotiate and compromise.
Under Bonamici’s leadership, lawmakers approved redistricting—rather than leaving it for the secretary of state and courts to resolve. It’s the first time in five decades that’s happened.
In our joint endorsement interview, we asked all three candidates, if they couldn’t vote for themselves, which one of the others at the table would they support. Avakian and Bonamici—who have had the knives out for each other during this short primary race—both said they’d vote for Witt.
Witt gave a ringing endorsement of Bonamici—one that could easily sum up our conclusion as well.
“She is a person who is fair and honest, and has the interests of not only her constituency but the rest of our nation in mind,” Witt said. “And is an exceedingly thoughtful person.”
By the Numbers
- As of September, the 1st Congressional District had 93,400 non-affiliated voters, more than any other Oregon district. But registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 178,000 to 126,000.
- The district includes Washington, Clatsop, Yamhill and Columbia counties, and part of Multnomah County.
- Republicans controlled the 1st District from 1893, when the seat was created, until 1974, when it was won by Les AuCoin. It’s been in Democratic hands ever since.
- In Multnomah County, 19 percent of residents receive food stamps; in Washington County, the most populous in the 1st District, the figure is 12 percent.
- In Washington County, 90.5 percent of residents have a high-school education; in Multnomah County, the number is 89 percent. Both are well above the national average of 85.3 percent.
- In 2009, 11,575 Washington County households reported incomes of $200,000 or more; the number in Multnomah County was about 6,000.
- Outside Washington County cities, the two biggest population centers in the 1st District are St. Helens (12,715) and Astoria (10,110).
- Biggest machine: The Lampson LTL-2600, the world’s largest mobile crane, is being used to build Intel’s new $3 billion chip plant.