Bilbray and Peters for 52nd Congressional District Runoff

May 23, 2012

By U-T San Diego Editorial Staff |  May 22, 2012

Of the five San Diego County congressional campaigns, there is but one in which an incumbent is facing a potentially difficult challenge. Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican who succeeded the disgraced Randy “Duke” Cunningham in the North County 50th District in 2006, has drawn a host of challengers, including prominent Democrats Scott Peters and Lori Saldaña, in the race for the newly drawn – and significantly less GOP friendly – 52nd District.

The new 52nd, redrawn last year along with all other congressional districts in the wake of the 2010 Census, will take in Poway on the north, then sweep south through Clairemont, La Jolla, Downtown San Diego and Coronado. While Bilbray enjoyed a nine-point Republican edge in voter registration in his old district, the new 52nd will have only a three-point GOP advantage.

Bilbray faces a total of nine challengers, including four other Republicans, two independents and three Democrats. But none of the challengers outside of Peters and Saldaña have mounted a significant threat. In the state’s new open primary system, the two candidates winning the most votes on June 5, regardless of party affiliation, will move on to the November general election.

This Editorial Board generally supported Bilbray in the past, particularly his conservative economic positions, though we declined to endorse him for re-election in 2010, largely because of his high-profile stance against immigration reform proposals we have long championed. His opposition to comprehensive immigration reform continues to give us pause. But Bilbray makes a credible case that he has become the “go-to guy” in the county’s congressional delegation in lining up House support from both sides of the aisle on important regional issues.

Peters is a member of the San Diego Unified Port District board and a former San Diego City Council member. Saldaña served six years in the California Assembly, leaving the Legislature in 2010. Between the two of them, we think Peters is not only the stronger candidate but also a more moderate voice in a district that, after all, still carries a Republican plurality in voter registration.

Peters’ record on the City Council was tarnished by votes in favor of some of the pension schemes that led to severe financial turmoil for the city. But, as with Bilbray, we have been impressed in recent years with his ability to work in bipartisan fashion to get things done. It is worth noting that in this campaign, influential Republicans such as businessman Tom Wornham, a former chairman of the Regional Chamber of Commerce, and former San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Bowman have endorsed Peters over Bilbray.

We think a November runoff between Bilbray and Peters would clarify which candidate is the better fit for the district and which would best represent the interests of the San Diego region in the House of Representatives.

The U-T San Diego Editorial Board endorses both Brian Bilbray and Scott Peters in the June 5 primary for the 52nd Congressional District.

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