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Peters Appears To Unseat Bilbray In 52nd Congressional Race

Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna talks to KPBS after the November 6 election.

Democratic Port Commissioner Scott Peters appears to have unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, in the 52nd District.


Democratic Port Commissioner Scott Peters appears to have unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, in the 52nd District.

— Democratic Port Commissioner Scott Peters appears to have unseated Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, in the 52nd District, but with fewer than 700 votes separating the two, it was unclear if remaining vote by mail ballots and provisional ballots might ultimately change the outcome. The full count could take up to a month, though the race is likely to be called sooner.

Photo credit: Spark Photography

Congressional candidate Scott Peters (D) speaks with reporters at the Westin Gaslamp, November 6, 2012.

Photo credit: Spark Photography

Congressman Brian Bilbray (R) talks to reporters at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.

KPBS reporters tweeting on Election Day.

Peters had money. He threw more than $2 million of his own money into the campaign. Last night he started out more than 3 points behind Bilbray, who led 51 to 48 in the early going. But over the course of five hours the gap narrowed, and by 2 a.m. Peters took the lead.

Peters said that's how his elections always go His victory to reach the San Diego City Council a decade ago was close, too.

"Mine seem to last many hours and sometimes days," Peters said. "I was the first Democrat elected to the 1st District; my margin of victory in the first one was 309. Ive just been through a lot of these ... they work out but it takes a while."

The contest for the new district between the Democrat Peters and the Republican Bilbray has been tight and heated since the June primary, and has attracted national attention. Because the Congressional seat is one of the few Republican seats seen as vulnerable, Super PACs on both sides have plowed millions into the race.

Bilbray did not concede last night.

But he talked generally, saying that whoever wins will have their work cut out in Congress.

Asked what he would do if he lost after being a congressman for 12 years, Bilbray said:

"I've got a sailboat and surfboards that need a lot of work out. The trouble is who do I find to take care of things like the cancer research emphasis that we're doing? When we talk about things like clean energy, who do I find in the Republican Party that's willing to take on those issues?

"But, no, I'll continue to work on these issues like I did when the voters gave me a five year sabbatical."

Bilbray was referring to the period after he lost his last congressional seat to Democrat Susan Davis after that district's boundaries were redrawn ten years ago.

Created by last year’s redistricting process, the 52nd district includes Coronado, Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and parts of North County, including Poway and Rancho Bernardo.

Bilbray, who currently represents the 50th district, was running for the newly redrawn 52nd, which has no incumbent. Peters is currently a San Diego’s Port commissioner.

The two candidates hold sharply different views on a variety of issues, including pension reform, social security and Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act.

During a KPBS debate in March, Peters said he would support overturning the Supreme Court’s unrestricted-campaign-financing decision, “Citizens United,” while Bilbray said, although he does not like the decision, he will abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

"I accept it, I don't like it, but that's what being American is all about," he said.

Peters expressed support for President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, saying there is “a lot to like” in the act, but that the government needs to work on cutting its cost. Bilbray said he does not like the act, and that government should have worked harder to negotiate with insurance companies and to get “trial lawyers out of the operating rooms.”

Bilbray voted last January to repeal the act.

Peters said he supports same-sex marriage; Bilbray said he does not. Both Peters and Bilbray do not support legalizing marijuana, a point that has pitted Bilbray against his daughter Briana, who is a terminal cancer patient. Briana Bilbray appeared in a controversial ad endorsing her father's campaign in October.

During separate KPBS interviews in October, Peters said the U.S. needs an immigration policy that is “tough, fair to taxpayers and practical.”

As chairman of the powerful Immigration Reform Caucus, Bilbray has taken hard anti-immigrant stances. Immigrant rights activists put pressure on Bilbray during his campaign for his stance on immigration.

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