After the Duke

12 April 2006

Run-Off Needed to Fill Cunningham’s Seat

With Randy “Duke” Cunningham in jail for abuse of office, the people of California’s 50th Congressional District have no representative in the House. Yesterday, a special election to fill that seat didn’t result in a winner. A run-off election in June will pit Democrat Francine Busby, who finished first with 44% of the vote, against former Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, who garnered 15% of the ballots. Appearances are deceiving, though; most expect Mr. Bilbray to win the seat.

The 50th District is just north of San Diego, a conservative part of the state. The GOP has 44% of the registered voters, Democrats 30%, independents make up 22% with the balance being affiliated with minor parties. In his last six terms, former Congressman Cunningham won the seat with over 55% of the vote, and in the 2004 election, he won 58.5% of the vote.

Ms. Busby finished first by a wide margin yesterday because of the way the special election system in California works. It is essentially an open primary, and anyone who gets 50% +1 of the vote is declared the winner. There were 14 Republicans, two Democrats and two minor party candidates on the ballot, so it is no surprise that the GOP vote was split. Indeed, it is a credit to Mr. Bilbray that he mustered 15%.

A further twist arises because this election is to fill the seat only through the end of this year. In November, the mid-term election will replace the entire House of Representatives. This means that the special election in June will be held in conjunction with primary day in which the parties will choose their candidates for the November race. The opportunity for confusion is rather large. However, the pressure on the candidates who didn’t survive to the special election’s first round to quit may take care of much of that.

Mr. Bilbray’s made a big issue out of illegal immigration, listing himself on the ballot as an “immigration reform consultant.” The issue in this part of the country is always significant. Ms. Busby ran on a platform heavily influenced by ethics, tying into the Republican’s “culture of corruption.” The district is likely to stay in GOP hands because of the gerrymandering that has gone on over the years, which means the US Congress has less turn-over of membership than the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ever did. However, if Ms. Busby should win in June, it may foreshadow a disaster for the GOP in November.

© Copyright 2006 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Fedora Linux.


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