Scurrilous campaign mailing

There is certainly nothing new about scurrilous campaign mailings, but the one that we received yesterday from a candidate for the Republican nomination for state assembly* was among the worst I have seen recently.

The mailing asks, “Mexifornia… or California?” It shows an outline of the state of California superimposed with the colors and emblem of the Mexican flag. In turn, the entire thing is superimposed with the image of a family on the run, which anyone who has driven I-5 in the last decade or so has seen as a highway warning sign. Even the word, “caution” is included in the mailer’s image. Of course, the actual signs are meant to caution the driver that there could be pedestrians on the freeway, but the idea of “caution” in the mailing is rather, and not so subtly, different.

I will place a photo of the mailing on the “inside page.” Continue reading

Military to block SD airport?

The airport commission that has been evaluating sites for a modern international airport for San Diego has identified the obvious: The best sites are either Miramar or Pendleton, with North Island as a less viable alternative, but still preferable to retaining all operations at cramped Lindbergh or building a new airport on the other side of the mountains. The first two preferred sites are Marine bases, and the third is Navy.

So, just to ensure the military’s right to say no, Congressman Duncan Hunter (Republican, and chair of the House Armed Service Committee), joined by two other Representatives from the County (including the one of the two current Democrats, Susan Davis), has introduced language into a bill about to clear the House that would prevent any further consideration of the bases for a civilian or joint-use airport.

Contrary to appearances, not all of us San Diegans are affiliated with the military or defense contractors, but Duncan–and his colleagues–are more concerned to represent powerful special interests than to represent the broad interests of the citizens of this county, who need a modern airport for continued growth of the tourism industry (the no. 1 revenue source) and the economy more generally.

The North County Times describes the language that Hunter has slipped into this bill, apparently without even a full debate:

[it] would keep Miramar, Pendleton and North Island free from civilian intrusion.

Civilian intrusion?

Last I checked, we had a civilian government and the military served it. However, I will admit that I have not checked in a while.

CA-50: Bilbray may face nomination challenge in June

Republican Brian Bilbray, who will face off against Democrat Francine Busby (and two minor candidates) in June to fill the remainder of Duke Cunningham’s 50th US House term, may not have a clear path to his party’s nomination for the full term to be decided in November. On the same day as the special-election runoff, there will be a primary for November. Eric Roach, narrowly defeated by Bilbray for the Republican runoff slot, may enter the June primary, and Howard Kaloogian–who came in third among Republicans–may endorse Roach.

Given that Bilbray could be seen as a weak candidate,* and given that he won only 28.5% of the total number of votes received by Republicans in the first round, it would be surprising if no one were tempted to challenge him for the nomination. In June, unlike in the April vote, only registered Republicans and independents who specifically request a Republican ballot, and not Democrats, will be able to participate in any contest among Republicans for the right to bear the label in November.

*Former and not very distinguished congressman from a (mostly) different district, with a moderate voting record on many key Republican issues, and now a lobbyist.

Click here for the full set of posts on the 50th race and other aspects of the 2006 congressional elections.

Regional patterns and turnout in the 50th district

From the past week or so, a couple of reports from the North [San Diego] County Times have looked at the turnout and regional patterns within the CA-50 House district special election.

The final tally shows the turnout was 39% of registered voters. That may not sound like much, but it is actually quite high for a special House election. Turnout apparently was higher in the coastal communinities, which are precisely the areas in which Democratic candidate Francine Busby was strongest.

In many midterm elections, when the party in control of the House changes (as in 1994), or when it defies the usual midterm-loss phenomenon and picks up seats (as in 1998 and 2002), turnout is typically one of the decisive factors. Is the 50th district turnout pattern significant? Does it show an energized Democratic party and unenthusiastic Republicans? Or will it be an aberation? The answer to these questions will go a long way towards determining which party is in control of the US House as of next January.

A second report shows a map of the top three candidates’ support in various communities.* It shows that Busby won majorities in the coastal communities of Encinitas (a small subset of which is Cardiff, where she is an elected school board member) and Del Mar, as well as in the slightly inland sprawl-town of Del Mar Heights. The three top candidates ran almost even in the wealthy enclave of Rancho Santa Fe, where 24% of the vote was far below Busby’s overall district share (44%). In the inland communities Busby ran slightly below (or, in the case of Escondido, well behind, at 35%) of her district overall share.

*I was going to post it, but it is rather small and blurry. It was a lot easier to read in the print version than on-line.

Busby’s chances

I have been saying all along (contrary to much mainstream punditry) that the Democratic candidate for California’s 50th House district, Francine Busby, stood a better chance of winning in the runoff in June that in the first round that took place on 11 April.

I have also said she had little chance in either round. With her surprising 44%–about ten points better than pre-election polls–have her chances improved?

Yes. It is still a longshot, but the apparent nomination of a former congressman, Brian Bilbray, (from a different, and only partly overlapping district, who was defeated in 2000 by Susan Davis in the since re-districted 53rd) gives her a chance.1

Assuming Busby faces Bilbray, she can run against the ex-congressman who cashed in as a lobbyist,2 thereby boosting her first-round campaign theme of the “culture of corruption.” As I noted yesterday, Bilbray is a relative moderate within the local Republican party–he had to be, because his old district was one of those increasingly rare competitive types–but his being a lobbyist may be more relevant today than a six-year-old voting record.3

Obviously, the key to Bilbray’s beating Busby is to unite the divided Republican forces–even mainstream pundits get that! Their fourteen candidates combined for 53.3% of the vote. Busby and one other Democrat combined for 45.2%. There is a danger sign in these numbers for Republicans: Even with numerous candidates appealing to various segments of the party, they underperformed Bush’s vote in the district in 2004, which was 55%.

Busby is not a first-time candidate, so we have a good comparison to the previous election. In 2004, she ran against then-incumbent Duke Cunningham (first elected in this district in 1992)4, and lost 36-58, in what was the first serious and well organized campaign by a Democrat I had seen in thirteen years of living in this region. (By contrast, a different Democratic candidate had lost, 32-64, to Cunningham in 2002.) Obviously, a district that split between the Democrats and Republicans, 45-53, this week is “in play” for the first time ever. But is this the best Busby can do? Maybe not.

A key factor–unkown, unless there were exit polls of which I am unaware–is how much cross-party voting there was in the first round. Obviously, Busby has already won over some independents and probably even some Republicans. Democrats represent only about 30% of the district’s registration, against 45% Republican and around 22% nonpartisan. Thus Busby outpolled her party by around 14 percentage points. Has she fully fished the pool of cross-party voters? If so, she will lose roughly 53-45.

What is unknown is how many Democrats and independents might have voted for a Republican other than the one nominated, and whether any of them would prefer Busby over the actual nominee now that their first choice from the field is eliminated.

And then there is the wildcard of the concurrent primary-runoff in June. Not only will Busby and Bilbray face off in June, but on the same day there will also be the closed party primaries to pick the candidates for the regular November general election. Bilbray won around 28% of the total votes cast for Republicans in the first round (which, rememeber, was 53% of the total and may have included some Democrats who will not be eligible to vote in the closed party primary in June, although independents may still do so). It is hardly a stretch to think that Bilbray might face challengers from within the party for the nomination to face (presumably) Busby in November. If there is at least one Republican challenging him in the June primary, he may lose votes (perhaps to absentention) in the concurrent runoff for the remainder of Duke’s unexpired term.

It is still an uphill battle for Busby, and even if she wins in June, she may face a stronger Republican challenger than Bilbray in November and lose then.

But her prospects look a lot better today than they looked a few days ago. And even a loss but with a mid-40s showing in June could be a significant harbinger of winds of change come November.

UPDATE, 14 April: Bilbray apparently has clinched. With only about 1,000 absentee and provisional ballots to be counted, Bilbray’s lead for the Republican runoff slot has widened slightly (to 0.77%), and his lead over Roach is greater than 1,000 votes.

FURTHER UPDATE: As of the end of the day Friday, 14 April, around 500 ballots remained to be counted and the top three percentages stand at 43.75, 15.26, 14.50.

Notes & sources

1. The nomination of Brian Bilbray is not yet assured (as of the original posting, which will be updated at the bottom of the main text–i.e. just above these footnotes). About 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted, and Bilbray’s lead over Eric Roach is under 9% of that remaining total. Roach could overtake Bilbray, and even if he does not, if Bilbray’s lead narrows by about 250 votes, a recount would be likely. The remainder of this entry will assume that the Republican candidate will be Bilbray. If, on the other hand, Roach wins the nomination, he might be harder to defeat. He is a millionaire who could spend freely while perhaps neutralizing some of the “culture of corruption” message through his declared refusal to accept donations from political action committees (PACs).

2. The organization for which Bilbray has been working advocates stricter immigration controls. Given the salience, but also the volatility, of that issue right now, it is unclear to me whether this actually will turn out to be an asset or a further liability.

3. According to the 2006 edition of Michael Barone and Richard E. Cohen’s The Almanac of American Politics (National Journal Group), p. 311, in defeating Bilbray in 2000, Susan Davis “portrayed him as a conservative, even though he took liberal positions on abortion and the environment and made a point of not attending the Republican National Convention. He supported John McCain’s campaign finance regulation bill…”

4. Cunningham was first elected in 1990, with only 46% of the vote, in a different district in which he knocked off an incumbent Democrat (Jim Bates). He challenged incumbent Republican Bill Lowery in the primary in his new district in 1992. Lowery, implicated in the House banking scandal, withdrew, and Cunningham won 56% of the vote in November of that year and 67% in 1994. (Almanac of American Politics, p. 302.)

For further details, see the special coverage in the local paper. Ironically, this linked page comes up with a page title indicating it contains “obituaries!” Could they be referring to the death of a once safe Republican district? Or would such reports be greatly exaggerated?

50th US House first-round result

In the first round of the special election to fill the US House seat formerly held by the Crooked Duke, Francine Busby leads the field by a surprisingly large margin, with 43.92%. A second Democrat, Chris Young (not to be confused with the Padre pitcher), placed in the top ten in the field of 18 candidates, with 1.32%.

Busby will face former Rep. Brian Bilbray in the runoff in June. Bilbray won 15.15%. Also in the runoff will be William Griffith (independent, 0.82%) and Paul King (Libertarian, 0.6%).

Bilbray won the Republican slot in the runoff over Eric Roach by 880 votes (0.69%). The third Republican, former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, had 7.45%, and the fourth, former state Senator Bill Morrow, had only 5.39%.

Busby has more votes than the top four Republicans combined. Yet it is hard to see where she would get the extra votes she will need to beat Bilbray. She is probably also hurt by the twin facts that Bilbray is a relative moderate and there is no hard-right candidate in a third party who might hurt the Republican.

Nearly 44% of the vote for a Democrat in this district is impressive. But that moral victory still looks to me like the only kind she will get.

The myth about Busby, continued

Normally respectable sources, in this case Capitol Weekly (as quoted at San Diego Politics Blog), continue to perpetuate the myth that somehow Democratic candidate Francine Busby has a better chance of an upset in the 50th House district in the first round than in the second.

April 11 could be do-or-die for Francine Busby. The Democratic congressional candidate appears to have a slim chance to win a majority in next week’s special election to replace former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. But she would be a heavy underdog in a runoff as GOP voters unite around a single candidate.

Capitol Weekly simply makes no sense here. She is no more likely to win 50%+1 on 11 April than she is to win a plurality in June.

In fact her slim hopes of winning rest on either (1) the leading Republican emerging from the first round being too extreme to win the runoff, or (2) a third-party or independent candidate splitting the Republican vote in the general.

Given that there is no “Gilchrist” running in the 50th, Busby’s hopes for the second scenario appear to have vanished.

That leaves the first scenario. Busby is not likely to defeat a single Republican candidate in June, but such an upset is still far more likely her crossing the 50% threshold on 11 April when all flavors of Republican politics have someone to their liking.