Bilbray And Busby Rumble Tomorrow In California’s 50th District

The most significant congressional race that you probably haven’t heard much about occurs tomorrow: the special election to fill Duke Cunningham’s seat out in California. Normally, an election in this district, which is heavily Republican would be about as exciting as watching paint dry, but not this time, buddy.

The Republican candidate, Brian Bilbray, beat out a crowded field in the Republican primary by making illegal immigration his primary issue — and usually a primary victory would be enough to just about guarantee him a seat.

But, the fact that Cunningham was a crook and the GOP’s terrible poll numbers have both combined to hurt Bilbray. Busby also managed to cream Bilbray in fund raising. She has raked in “$1.4 million to Bilbray’s $343,000.” Of course, that’s not the whole story, because both national parties have been wheeling dump trucks full of money in for ads, but let’s just say Busby has managed to get in far more advertising than a Democrat normally would in a heavily Republican district.

Just to throw another monkey wrench in the whole works, there have been some other candidates on the right that have been draining off Bilbray’s support. Eric Roach was the runner-up in the primary, but he finally decided to throw his support to Bilbray. That’s good news, but unfortunately there are two other hopeless candidates also in the running. William Griffith, who sounds like a Paleocon crank and Paul King, the Libertarian candidate, will be in the race. Neither of them have any chance whatsoever to win, but it is possible that they could draw just enough support to hand the race to Busby.

Put all those factors together and you can see why a race that should be a cakewalk for Bilbray, has gone 45-45 and 47 (Bilbray) – 45 (Busby) in the last two polls that I’ve seen.

However, there is one very recent bit of good news for Bilbray. Remember that I said Bilbray’s big issue has been illegal immigration? Well, Busby not only supports the Senate bill, but since those two polls were completed, she has actually invited illegal aliens to vote for her and work on her campaign:

“Busby said she was invited to the forum at the Jocelyn Senior Center in Escondido by the leader of a local soccer league. Many of the 50 or so people there were Spanish speakers. Toward the end, a man in the audience asked in Spanish: “I want to help, but I don’t have papers.”

It was translated and Busby replied: “Everybody can help, yeah, absolutely, you can all help. You don’t need papers for voting, you don’t need to be a registered voter to help.”

Bilbray said at worst, Busby was encouraging someone to vote illegally. At best, she was encouraging someone who is illegally in the country to work on her campaign.”

Let’s face it: she just made the mistake of publicly saying what so many of these pro-illegals politicians believe and want — but, it should hurt her and give Bilbray a last minute boost, although, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t had time to put together any ads to hammer Bilbray for her comments.

In any case, this race has major national implications because it will be viewed as a referendum on illegal immigration and a bellwether for the fall elections.

If Bilbray wins, it’ll stiffen the spine of the Republicans in the House as they go to committee with the Senate on the immigration bill. But, if he loses, it has the potential to make them more open to compromise.

On the other hand, a Busby victory would hearten the Democrats tremendously. If Busby can go into a solid Republican district and come out with a win, it’s going to give them faith that they can pull off a takeover of Congress this November. However, if Busby loses and this turns into another one of those “moral victories” Democrats like to talk so much about, they’ll be sighing like Al Gore behind the scenes because it will be a signal to them that they’re not going to do as well as they’ve hoped.

So there’s a lot riding on this election and the last two polls show a dead heat and a small Bilbray lead that’s not outside the margin of error. So essentially, going by the numbers, it’s a toss up. However, because of Busby’s, “You don’t need no stinkin’ papers,” error and the Republican slant of the district, I’d have to give a slight edge to Bilbray. We’ll find out what happens soon enough.

Update #1: David All, who works for Congressman Jack Kingston is up in California, doing grunt work on Bilbray’s campaign on his own time. He sent out an update on the campaign to a few bloggers, myself included, and he gave me permission to share what he was telling us. Here’s some of what he wrote:

“…Bilbray is winning. I think he’s going to end up 5-6 pts.

Not a lot of visible dem or moveon ground activity.

I’m doing calls now, and I’m actually polling people.

1. Top issue? Every single person has said immig. This is amazing.”

Sounds like so far, so good — and every person says immigration is their top issue? I hope the Washington GOP is paying attention.

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