Bush, Rep. Issa Weigh In for Bilbray

LOS ANGELES—In a last-minute move to help Republican chances in the too-close-to call special U.S. House election in California’s 50th District (San Diego) on June 6, both President Bush and Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) weighed in strongly this weekend for GOP nominee Brian Bilbray.

In a recorded telephone message to Republican households in the district that became vacant when Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R.-Calif.) quit in disgrace earlier this year, the President called on voters to vote for Bilbray, who represented a neighboring district from 1994-2000, and describes the moderate GOPer as an ally in the war on terror.

The message from Issa, who represents a neighboring district, hit hard at Democratic nominee Francine Busby. “I was appalled,” Issa says on the tape, citing recent published reports that Busby was “caught on tape encouraging illegal aliens to vote for her.”

The GOP congressman was referring to reports in San Diego publications that Busby had been recorded telling a Mexican-American questioner that someone doesn’t need to be a “registered voter” to help her out—which critics say was encouragement of illegal aliens to help her in the district along the Mexican border.

Warning that Busby will win “if Republicans stay home,” Issa implores his listeners via tape to support Bilbray, “who has a long record of working on the right side of the immigration issue.”

Although the 50th District is historically Republican, pollsters and pundits consider the June 6 special election too close to call—in part, Jon Fleischman of the much-read political insiders’ blog told me, “because there is such a complete disconnect between the President’s position on immigration and what Republican voters are thinking and wanting.”

Obviously nervous about the outcome of the race, the RNC has more than 100 volunteers from outside states on the ground to assist in turning out the voter base. But President Bush, who has been visible in TV spots and mailings in other special elections during his term (most recently, Ohio’s Rep. Jean Schmitt’s “squeaker” win in a special election last year), has been conspicuous for his absence from the Bilbray campaign.

Now, Republicans are gambling that Bush is still popular enough with the GOP base to put Bilbray over the top Tuesday.


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