Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Democratic Victory In California Race Could Send Shockwaves

Tuesday is the run-off election to replace disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham in California. As the Washington Post reports, the Democrats are looking good into election day:

Democrats in a solidly Republican district hoped to capitalize on a GOP corruption scandal and capture the House seat Tuesday that was held by Randy "Duke" Cunningham before he went to prison for bribery.

Democrat Francine Busby, a local school board member who ran against Cunningham in 2004, competed against Republican Brian Bilbray, a former congressman, in a race that was considered a toss-up in its closing days.

Tuesday's victor will serve the remaining seven months of Cunningham's term.

The race was closely watched as a possible early barometer of next fall's midterm elections.

Busby focused her campaign on public dissatisfaction with the Bush administration and the GOP-led Congress, and assailed Bilbray for working as a lobbyist in Washington.

The two parties spent a total of more than $6 million on the high-stakes contest. President Bush and first lady Laura Bush recorded automated telephone messages for Bilbray. A mass e-mailing from Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate, was sent last week to more than 100,000 supporters, urging them to help get out the vote.

Cunningham's fall threatened to upset the electoral balance in this longtime GOP stronghold, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-to-2. Cunningham pleaded guilty last year to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and was sentenced in March to more than eight years in prison.

Well before Election Day, some Democrats claimed victory just by forcing a fight for the seat.

"If I get close, then we've made the point that this is no longer a safe seat, but it's not enough," Busby said in a recent interview. "We want to win."

Immigration politics have animated many voters in the San Diego-area district less than an hour north of the Mexican border.

Busby backed a Senate-passed bill that combines enhanced border security with a guest worker program and a shot at citizenship for many of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Bilbray called for constructing a fence "from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico" and barring illegal immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits.

That stance impressed voter Gene Luth, a 62-year-old general contractor from Rancho Santa Fe, about 25 miles north of San Diego. "He'll be able to get things done on the border issue, which is very important to San Diegans," Luth said.

If Mrs. Busby is to win the race Tuesday, it will indeed be a mandate for Democrats and the pro-ethics reform movement. It will re-enforce the idea that people are fed up with their representatives working for the special interests and not their interests.

Hopefully it will send a message to the do nothing leadership of John Boehner and the Republican Congress. It is time to pass ethics reform. Hopefully, the people agree with that notion.