Race to replace Cunningham headed for runoff

The bad news for Democrat Francine Busby is that she failed in her attempt
to get 50 percent of the vote in the 50th Congressional District (CD 50).
The good news is she’s going to have two more chances to get there.

It’s all part of the complicated process in motion to replace Rep. Randy
“Duke” Cunningham, who resigned in disgrace last year. On Tuesday, voters
went to the polls in a special election to elect someone to serve out the
rest of Cunningham’s term. Since no candidate received an outright majority,
the top vote getter in each party will meet in a runoff on June 6.

That means Busby and Republican Brian Bilbray will be the only two major
party names on the ballot eligible to fill out Cunningham’s current term,
which ends on January 3. Libertarian Paul King and Independent William
Griffith also will be on the ballot.

But June is also primary day for CD 50’s new term that begins in January
2007. So, Bilbray and Busby, by being the top vote-getters in their
respective party this week, simply earned the right to be on the ballot

Even if she loses to Bilbray in June, Busby will get another shot in
November. She is the only Democrat in the race, and is guaranteed to be her
party’s nominee for Congress in November. But Bilbray not only must face off
against Busby in the run-off on June 6, he also must once again
simultaneously run against the crowded field of Republicans that Bilbray
beat this week.

The task becomes even more complicated when you consider that Bilbray only
narrowly defeated millionaire businessman Eric Roach. Bilbray beat Roach by
less than 1,000 votes out of more than 117,000 ballots cast. Just to add
another wrinkle, there’s still about 10,000 provisional and absentee ballots
yet to count, according to county election officials, though they were not
expected to change the election outcome.

Busby received almost 44 percent of all ballots cast in this week’s special
election. That’s seven points more than she received when she ran against
Cunningham in 2004. Democrats have focused resources on the race, hoping to
cash in on voter discontent with Cunningham and national polls that show
support for Republican candidates sagging.

“Francine Busby’s dramatic win shows that Democratic, independent and
Republican voters simply want change,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.,
chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “In a
Republican district, Busby showed that Democratic candidates for change can
and will make status quo, politics-as-usual Republicans fight for their
political lives in every corner of this country.”

In more special election news, Assemblyman Tom Harman was clinging to a 289
vote lead over Dana Point Councilwoman Diane Harkey in the race to replace
John Campbell in the state Senate.

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