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The 50th Congressional District in California represents a part of north coastal San Diego County. Its seat in the United States House of Representatives is currently vacant.


November Election

Campaign impact of Bilbray woes uncertain

NORTH COUNTY ---- Political observers are saying it's not yet clear how much traction 50th District Democratic candidate Francine Busby will be able to get out of the latest developments in the controversy over just where U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray lives and whether he has been truthful about it.

In June, Republican Bilbray was elected to temporarily fill the seat of the now-imprisoned Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned from office last year after pleading guilty in federal court to bribery and tax evasion. The winner of the Nov. 7 general election will take the seat for a full two-year term starting in January.

Claremont McKenna College professor of government and former Republican National Committee consultant Jack Pitney said Friday that an alleged grand jury investigation into the matter may turn out to be not important at all.

On the other hand, "if the race is close, even a suspicion could have a major impact," Pitney said.

San Diego State University political science associate professor Carole Kennedy expressed similar doubts about what might happen.

"So much is going to depend on what becomes public information between now and Election Day," said Kennedy, who is not registered with any political party.

Washington political analyst Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Washington biweekly newsletter, the Rothenberg Political Report, said Friday that he questions how much effect news of a possible grand jury investigation will have.

"One question is whether the Busby campaign has the resources to make a bigger issue out of this," Gonzales said.

Kennedy said that one of the things impeding a greater fallout from the news is that so many voters have already cast absentee ballots. The registrar of voters office said Friday that there are about 1.6 million registered voters in San Diego County, and of those, 84,877 have already sent in absentee ballots, with more votes coming in by the day.

"And the longer it stays below the radar, the better it will be for Bilbray's candidacy," Kennedy said.

On Thursday, a man who is a neighbor of Bilbray's mother in Carlsbad told the North County Times that he testified before a San Diego County grand jury in late August and answered a prosecutor's questions to determine whether Bilbray lives at the home, located in the 2400 block of Unicornio Street.

On Friday, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sent an e-mail to the North County Times in which she said that she has received two complaints, one from the Democratic Party about Bilbray and one from the Republican Party about Busby.

"Beyond this, we have no public comment, except to emphasize that the public should rest assured that this office will continue to fairly and thoroughly investigate all substantial allegations of public integrity violations," Dumanis wrote.

A spokesman for Dumanis acknowledged Friday that she has publically endorsed Bilbray's candidacy for Congress.

On Thursday, the Bilbray campaign forwarded a copy of one complaint to the North County Times, in which an official with the Republican Party of San Diego County called for an investigation into "the allegations that Francine Busby has encouraged illegal immigrants to participate in her campaign."

Speculation has been rife for the past two weeks over whether a grand jury was investigating if Bilbray had committed perjury and fraud by declaring the Carlsbad address as his official residence when he signed voter registration papers in June 2005 and his candidacy papers in February.

Bilbray has insisted he has lived with his mother at the address for months and that he continues to do so. He has said that he first moved in with her in mid-2005 to care for the wheelchair-using woman.

Questions first arose during the same period he said he was living in Carlsbad, he declared on other documents that his residence was at a Fairfax County, Va., home he owns, as well as another in Imperial Beach that he also owns.

However, it is not uncommon for elected Washington officials to have multiple residences. In addition, the U.S. Constitution does not require that a member of Congress live in the district he or she represents.

Since earlier this month, the Busby campaign and the San Diego County Democratic Party have been making phone calls and sending e-mails to reporters in regard to the matter.

And on Friday, Carlsbad resident William Rider held a news conference for which the San Diego County Democratic Party contacted media organizations to inform them of the event. At the 1 p.m. gathering ---- attended by four television stations, two newspapers, two radio stations and one online publication ----- Rider discussed the testimony he said he gave before a grand jury.

The Vietnam veteran and registered Democrat had shared his story with the North County Times in an exclusive Thursday interview, in which he said that San Diego County Assistant District Attorney Patrick O'Toole and grand jury members had grilled him for more than one hour about whether he knew if Bilbray was living at the address.

In a Thursday phone interview, Bilbray said that he "absolutely" has not been subpoenaed by a grand jury, nor does he have any knowledge that one may be investigating him. He also attributed Democratic efforts to drum up press attention over the issue to a last-minute campaign smear.

Just days before the June 6 special election ---- where Bilbray beat Busby by about 5,000 votes ---- the San Diego County Democratic Party made a public call for the district attorney's office to investigate Bilbray.

Reacting to the news of Rider's statements Thursday, the Bilbray campaign sent to the North County Times a copy of a letter in which an official with the Republican Party of San Diego County called for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to investigate Busby over the alleged use of illegal immigrants in her campaign.

Contacted in Washington on Friday, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee belittled Democrats' efforts to push the story of an alleged grand jury investigation.

"It reeks of a political smear campaign," said spokesman Jonathan Collegio.

On Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it was adding Busby's name to a list of top priority races from across the nation, in a program called "Red to Blue."

The committee uses the program to help raise money for the candidates who are on the list, by soliciting donations from its grass-roots base ---- money that goes directly to the individual campaigns ---- and by holding local and national fundraisers for the same candidates.

Since April, the Democratic Party has used the program to raise more than $15 million for 56 candidates, according to a Friday news release from the committee. Friday's announcement added an additional 17 Democrats' names to the list, including Busby's.

"This is a way to help direct money, support and resources to highlight the strongest campaigns in some of the most competitive districts around the country," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said Friday from her Washington office.

Asked repeatedly if stories of a possible grand jury investigation into Bilbray had influenced the party's decision to put Busby on the party's so-called "Red to Blue" list, Bedingfield continually evaded the question.

Contact staff writer William Finn Bennett at (760) 740-5426, or

Correction: Source of a request for investigation incorrect

The source of a request for an investigation was incorrectly cited in a story published Friday about recent allegations raised in the 50th Congressional District race.

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray's campaign sent a copy of a letter from a Republican Party official to San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The writer of the letter called for an investigation into allegations that Democratic candidate Francine Busby has encouraged illegal immigrants to participate in her campaign.

We apologize.

50th District sees rematch, without hoopla

September 24, 2006

Just over three months ago, the special election to fill the vacancy left by congressman-turned-inmate Randy “Duke” Cunningham was a political rock concert. It was national news, big money poured in from both parties and Washington pundits touted it as a barometer of the national mood.

That was then.

Republican Brian Bilbray won that June contest, defeating Democrat Francine Busby by slightly more than 4.5 percentage points. A comfortable margin, but not commanding, considering the Republican Party spent $5 million on Bilbray's behalf in a heavily Republican district.

No matter. Bilbray is now the incumbent, which brings powerful advantages as he faces Busby again in the Nov. 7 election to determine who holds the 50th Congressional District seat for the next two years.

The environment has changed dramatically – analysts no longer view this north San Diego district as “in play,” and the Democratic Party has cut off Busby's money pipeline – and with the new reality come new strategies.

Busby hammered away at corruption in the earlier contest but was drowned out by Bilbray's relentless focus on illegal immigration. Today she seeks to turn the race into a referendum on President Bush in general and America's involvement in Iraq in particular.

Busby also takes aim at Bilbray's voting record in the 109th Congress – short but filled with some potential land mines, such as voting to loosen restrictions on offshore oil drilling.

50th District race in full swing

Democrat Francine Busby says she hasn't given up on the race. She's focusing on the war in Iraq and government accountability. Bilbray, whose win in June allowed him to fill the seat in Washington until Cunningham's term expires, said he will focus on national security and illegal immigration in the November election.

"I'm representing a voice not just for change, but to restore a system of checks and balances," Busby said.

Special Election

Busby says outraged at 'despicable' attack ad

National Republican Congressional Committee smears Busby

April 21, 2006 The race for the 50th Congressional District seat took a bitter turn Friday, when the National Republican Congressional Committee began airing a television spot accusing Democrat Francine Busby of praising a Cardiff schoolteacher accused of trying to obtain child pornography.

In a late Friday news release, Busby reacted with outrage to the campaign ad, saying the allegation is false.

"This is the most outrageous and slanderous attack I could ever imagine," stated Busby, a Cardiff school board member. She is running against Republican Brian Bilbray in a June runoff election to fill the seat vacated by disgraced former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

"To claim that I sympathize with child pornographers is the most despicable low anyone could sink to," Busby stated.

Recount fee goes unpaid: San Diego Registrar says no recount happening in 50th District race

A voter's request for a recount of the June 6 special election ballots from the 50th Congressional District has been halted because the woman requesting the recount did not pay a required fee, the San Diego County Registrar's office said this week.

San Diego resident Barbara Jacobson earlier this month requested a hand recount of the more than 158,000 ballots cast in the June 6 runoff election to replace former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Republican Brian Bilbray beat Democratic opponent Francine Busby by more than 5 percentage points in the special election runoff.

In her letter to county elections chief Mikel Haas, Jacobson said she requested the recount because of potential security breaches regarding voting machines, some of which were taken home by poll workers in the days leading up to the election.

Any voter has the right to request a hand recount of ballots as long as he or she pays the costs of the recount, which Haas set earlier this month at up to $150,000.

Jacobson, a registered Democrat, would have been required to pay a $6,000 deposit toward the recount bill by July 11 in order for the recount to go forward, Haas said. No such deposit was paid, he said.

"The deadline came and went and there was no deposit," he said.

Jacobson said Friday evening that the deposit wasn't paid because she and the group supporting her needed more information about what the registrar would provide.

"If there is a legitimate cost, we are willing to pay it," she said of the group, the California 50th District Voter Integrity Group. "But we want to know what we'll be getting."


District turnout about 39 percent

Nearly 39 percent of registered voters in the 50th Congressional District cast ballots in Tuesday's special election to fill the seat vacated late last year by disgraced former Congressman Randy Cunningham, officials with the county registrar of voters office said Friday.

The turnout was greater than expected in a special election, a political analyst said, attributing the number of voters partially to TV and radio advertisements.

"Because of all the money that was spent, it got voters more interested," Republican campaign consultant Jack Orr said, referring to high-priced TV and radio ads bought mostly by millionaire candidates and national parties. "If it had just been candidates who couldn't self-fund, I think turnout would have been much smaller."


When 50th Congressional District voters go to the polls on April 11, they will be choosing from a list of 18 candidates to select a temporary replacement for former U.S. Rep. Randy Cunningham, county registrar of voter officials said Monday.

The disgraced Republican resigned from office on Dec. 1, after pleading guilty in federal court to tax evasion and receiving more than $2.4 million in bribes from two defense contractors in exchange for tens of millions in government business.

  1. Brian Bilbray, Republican, lobbyist and former Congressman,
  2. Bill Boyer, Republican, 48, of Carlsbad, director of sales for AudioQuest, a manufacturer of home-theater systems,
  3. Francine Busby, Democrat, Cardiff school board member,
  4. Richard Earnest, Republican, businessman and former Del Mar Mayor,
  5. Milton Gale, Republican, retired quality specialist
  6. William Griffith, nonpartisan, 50, of Carlsbad, a math teacher at Carlsbad High School
  7. Bill Hauf, Republican, businessman,
  8. Delecia Holt, Republican, 43, of University City, a real estate broker and investor who is also an independent contractor in the field of homeland security,
  9. Howard Kaloogian, Republican, attorney and former state Assemblyman,
  10. Paul King, Libertarian, small business owner .
  11. Bill Morrow, Republican, state Sen,
  12. Jeff Newsome, Republican, California Highway Patrol Sgt.,
  13. Scott Orren, Republican, 44, of San Diego, a private contractor in the defense industry
  14. Victor Ramirez, Republican, attorney and retired judge
  15. Eric Roach, Republican, businessman,
  16. Scott Turner, Republican, motivational speaker and former professional football player,
  17. Alan Uke, Republican businessman,
  18. Chris Young, Democrat, a law student and retired bank executive,