In a move last week that delighted national Republicans, millionaire industrialist Eric Roach decided to end his bid for nomination to a full term in the Republican primary in California’s open 50th District (San Diego). With the district coming open following the resignation of disgraced Republican Rep. (1988-2006) Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the conservative Roach was the narrow, second-place finisher among the 13 Republican candidates in the first round of the special election to fill the vacancy.
With candidates of all parties appearing on the same ballot April 11, Democrat Francine Busby led with 44% of the vote, followed by moderate former Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray with 15% of the vote and Roach with 14%, about 1,000 votes behind Bilbray. Now Busby and Bilbray, who represented the neighboring district from 1994-2000, will duel for the remainder of Cunningham’s term in the run-off June 6th.
However — and here’s where it gets confusing — on the same day, voters in the 50th District will choose nominees for a full term as congressman in November. While Roach had endorsed Bilbray in the special election, the conservative businessman had insisted he was challenging him for nomination for the full term. Roach, in fact, met with conservative leaders in Washington two weeks ago to lay out his plans and was accompanied by former state legislator Howard Kaloogian, a stalwart conservative who placed fourth in the April balloting (7.5%).
Last week, bowing to concerns from national GOP leaders that his continuing candidacy would damage Bilbray in the June race, Roach abandoned the race and, despite differences on social issues such as abortion, gave his blessings for the primary to Bilbray.