Wu, Hooley face tough competition in fall

Democratic U.S. Reps. David Wu and Darlene Hooley haven’t faced tough re-election campaigns in recent years.

That could change this fall, when the two incumbents go up against well-financed Republicans who rode a wave of anti-tax fervor to victory in their GOP primary races.

Iranian-born Goli Ameri’s victory in Tuesday’s primary gives Republicans their best shot in years to knock off Wu and win back the 1st District, which stretches from Portland’s western suburbs to the coast.

And Lake Oswego lawyer Jim Zupancic, who used an anti-tax hike plank to defeat his GOP rival, is ready to use a similar theme against Hooley in the 5th District, which takes in the Willamette Valley and part of the coast.

Both Ameri and Zupancic had the backing of Citizens for a Sound Economy, the group that led the campaign to persuade voters to overturn the Legislature’s $800 million tax hike.

The group’s state director, Russ Walker, said Ameri’s and Zupancic’s convincing victories Tuesday showed that anti-tax sentiment is running high. That could help propel the two past Wu and Hooley in November, he said.

“Both Ameri and Zupancic have positioned themselves well to capture those voters,” Walker said.

Amy Walters of the Cook Political Report, the Washington, D.C.-based political newsletter, said at this point she gives the edge to Wu and Hooley to win re-election.

The two incumbents each have more than $1 million in the bank for their re-election campaigns and the ability to raise lots more money, Walters noted.

“They are well-funded incumbents who likely won’t be easily caught off guard,” Walters said. “They certainly have the financial firepower to respond to Republican attacks and to start defining this race.”

Walters also said, though, that both Republicans will present more formidable competition for Wu and Hooley than either has seen since they were first elected to Congress.

The National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington has high hopes of knocking off both Hooley and Wu this fall. Both are in swing districts, with Wu in a nominally Democratic district and Hooley in one where registered Republicans slightly outnumber registered Democrats.

With two strong GOP contenders emerging from Tuesday’s primary, “both of these districts are going to be our top races on the West Coast,” Bo Harmon, the committee’s spokesman, said in an interview Wednesday.

Political analyst Jim Moore said that of the two incumbent, he thinks Wu could be the most vulnerable.

That’s partly because Ameri has been able to position herself as a fiscal conservative who supports abortion rights, which sets her apart from other Republicans who have previously challenged Wu in the politically moderate district, Moore said.

Plus, Ameri has demonstrated the ability to raise a lot of money from around the nation, including $500,000 so far from Iranian-Americans, he said.

And Wu himself has the “lowest profile” among members of Oregon congressional delegation, he said.

“It’s his job to make sure his constituents know who he is,” Moore said. “Occasional newsletters announcing that you’re going to have a meeting at a local school doesn’t make a big impression with voters.”

Hooley, on the other hand, has maintained a relatively high profile and has “well tended” the various interest groups in her district, Moore said.

“Darlene has gone out of her way to see what mint farmers do,” he said.