Friday, November 03, 2006

Democrats Desert 50th Congressional Candidate

The Democratic Party has deserted its one-time hopeful Francine Busby, who is running against Brian Bilbray in San Diego's 50th congressional district. The Busby-Bilbray matchup in June's primary generated national attention as a bellwether race on party control of Congress this year.

as this Los Angeles Times story indicates, Busby has been cut loose by the national party, amid slimming possibilities for victory:

Francine Busby, the Democratic nominee in the 50th Congressional District, was hot in the spring.

In the fall, she's not.As her party's choice to grab the vacancy created when Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) resigned last year and was imprisoned for bribery, Busby was lavished with help from fellow Democrats.

The national party rushed the district money, advice, consultants and prominent personages to help in fundraising and media coverage.

Busby blanketed local television with commercials, many attacking the Republicans for a "culture of corruption." The GOP was worried enough to launch counterattack ads.

The national press came running to see if the June runoff between Busby and former Republican congressman Brian Bilbray could be the beginning of a campaign year trend favoring out-of-power Democrats.

The results did not cut that way: Bilbray 49%, Busby 45% and two right-of-center candidates 5%. Bilbray went to Congress to finish the final six months of Cunningham's term.

Now Bilbray and Busby are fighting for a full two-year term in Tuesday's election. Bilbray, 55, has the power of incumbency. Busby, also 55, a Cardiff school board member, is largely on her own."

Every one of my volunteers is local," she said.

The national party is providing none of the money and other assistance it lavished in the June runoff. Busby waited until 10 days before the election to air a television commercial.

Still, she soldiers on, believing that voters in the suburban district north of San Diego are soured on the war in Iraq (she opposed the invasion), are distrustful of Republicans on issues such as Medicare and offshore oil drilling and are still not convinced that Bilbray, whose prior district was to the south, is really one of them.

To win, Busby would have to buck a California trend going back four decades, maybe longer.

Gary Jacobson, a congressional scholar at UC San Diego who has studied 40 years' worth of California congressional elections, said no Democrat has beaten a Republican in a district where the GOP holds a registration edge of 4 percentage points or more.

Although that record could be broken in Northern California, where Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) is endangered because of scandal and his environmental record, Jacobson does not see Bilbray losing.

One prime reason: In the 50th District, which includes coastal communities and parts of several inland ones, the Republicans have a 14 percentage point advantage: Republicans 44%, Democrats 30% and independents 22%.
I wrote earlier about Busby and the 50th congressional district, here and here. The national party -- in a year with loads of tight races around the country -- obviously considered Busby's 45 percent showing in June too long a shot to continue spending precious campaign resources in her support.

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