Two weeks after the initial balloting to fill the seat of disgraced former Republican Rep. (1990-2005) Randy "Duke" Cunningham in California’s 50th District (San Diego), no one is really sure which way the run-off in June will go.
Following a campaign in which an unusually high 39% of registered voters cast ballots and more than $2.5 million was spent by candidates on advertising alone, Democrat Francine Busby topped the 18-candidate field with 44% of the vote. Placing second and thus earning the Republican nod against Busby was former U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, who rolled up 15.2% of the vote. In so doing, Bilbray (lifetime ACU rating: 64%), who moved into the 50th from the neighboring district he formerly represented (1994-2000) and took moderate stands on social issues such as abortion, edged out conservative businessman Eric Roach (14.5%). Trailing Roach (who spent an estimated $2 million of his own money on his first-ever race for office) were two other well-known conservatives: former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian (7%) and State Sen. Bill Morrow (4%).
Despite obvious differences with Bilbray on issues, the three conservative runners-up and most of the 10 other Republican candidates have weighed in behind the former congressman in his upcoming race against Busby. However, the run-off in the 50th will be held the same day as the June primary elections in which voters nominate candidates for the full two-year term. While endorsing Bilbray for the June run-off, Roach signaled last week he is running against him in the primary the same day.
Bilbray, who worked in Washington for the anti-illegal immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, is expected to take a hard-line on this issue in the border-area district and distance himself from the Bush Administration on a guest-worker program. Busby opposes building a wall along the U.S. Mexican border and supports providing a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants.