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KPBS Midday Edition

Congressman Bilbray Concedes, Talks About Next Steps

Congressman Brian Bilbray (R) talks to reporters at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.
Spark Photography
Congressman Brian Bilbray (R) talks to reporters at Golden Hall on November 6, 2012.
Congressman Bilbray Concedes, Talks About Next Steps
GUEST Congressman Brian Bilbray

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Several San Diego politicians are making a beeline for the private sector and much higher salaries. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The new jobs even with nonprofits will pay these politicians much more than elected office and a salary study says San Diego's elected leaders are overdue for a pay raise. First we will hear from Congressman Brian Bilbray about his concession and his future plans. Then we will look about the scientific journeys of the vessel Roger Revel back in all board in San Diego after six long years. And what better way to end a show than with the wonders of chocolate. An exhibition in Balboa Park. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. A number of San Diego politicians are making the leap to private sector jobs and much higher incomes. And scientists are retracing the Odyssey of the Scripps research vessel Robert Revelle. This is KBPS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, November 19. Our top story on Midday Edition after a hard-fought race and a squeaker of a finish, Congressman Brian Bilbray conceded defeat late last week in the 52nd Congressional District. Scott Peters is ahead by more than 5000 votes right now with 90,000 left be counted. Brian Bilbray is on the line with us this morning, and Congressman welcome, thank you for joining us. BRIAN BILBRAY: No problem at all. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: First of all there was speculation he might fight for recounted the selection why did you make the decision to concede? BRIAN BILBRAY: Well I think there is a process you go through and the fact is I don't think any of us expected this to have to wait so long on this one. There were so many provisional votes that sort of shocked everybody that when you had hundreds of thousands I think Thanksgiving is one place that we ought to be with family and we ought to focus on being grateful if everything we've been able to be given or earned, and I think that politics should, I wanted to focus on that and everybody should be focusing on family, not on a recount. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, did the loss actually come as a surprise to you? BRIAN BILBRAY: No I think that everybody knew with the redistricting commission, something I supported, because I think the system needs to be shaken up, that this was going to be a very difficult race, especially at a time when the polling of the perception of Congress is so low, all-time low, obviously this was one that was going to be one of the tougher ones and I knew that going in the whole family knew that going in, so it was recognize from the get go. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the different makeup of the district that was the ultimate factor as far as you're concerned. BRIAN BILBRAY: 50% of the 52nd was new to to the 50th, so this district was, I was basically 60% of this district was an open seat, so it was people that I had been able to do the outreach, do the constituency work and whatever, so it was really more based on reputations rather than on performance and the Association with Congress, which I think nobody could appreciate how tough that was better than myself. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Congressman Bilbray, we talked a lot about the huge amount of money that was spent on the 52nd question always. And the negative ads that have paid for. If you had to do it again, would you run a different kind of race? BRIAN BILBRAY: I think the biggest thing I would wish that the campaign finance reform of health. You have to remember was one of the cosponsors of the campaign finance reform that was overturned by the courts and we definitely had limits of party infusion and outside money, we also had limits on personal wealth is being used. So all of those things were thrown out, but you live by the Constitution. I think that I didn't agree with the Supreme Court rulings on how much labor and business and independent expenditures and personal wealth could going, but we live by the Constitution and you know you take those rulings good or bad, or agree or not, and you just play by the rules of the Supreme Court rules. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You told KPBS on election night that if you didn't win you'd have plenty to occupy your time. What you will you be doing on your term ends? BRIAN BILBRAY: The first am doing right now before my term ends is finding people in Congress who can work across the aisle and continue to do it. The sad thing about this there's a lot of things going on that not just the votes, go to say, the public's got to understand that voting is the minimum that a member of Congress does. It's all the things that you do that or not but in the official records that is important. Working with people, I mean my involvement in Green fuel technology was, you know was really based on trying to get regulations changed to make it possible to produce green fuels viably in this country, and I said no to corn ethanol in the 90s and we were attacked by people who thought it was good for the environment then, and now they praise me for that stand. But the other issue is things like the medical research being from San Diego where the life sciences are so essential, the one place that I felt that Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together is working on life sciences. And the perception of some people thinking that the federal government's involvement is just spending money on research is so misguided. Our regulatory reform was essential and we've got to do that. And I saw how we could work together back in the 90s. We did that for AIDS, we force the bureaucracy, the FDA, the NIH to change, to turn AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable disease and right now we've been working doing the same thing for things like diabetes and cancer. That is the one way Republicans hypocrites could work together so my biggest thing is finding Republicans that could work like Democrats like – from California or any marquee from Boston, Kind of cooperation still going even I'm not going to be there. That is a real challenge. My biggest challenge in reality is after I leave office it will be January 15 which is when my daughter's next test goes through and if she can be cleared of cancer, this may be something we all look back at as a new breakthrough with genetically altered cancer treatments that make chemo obsolete and move us beyond that and hopefully that will be used to. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you think you're legacy will be in medicine and biotech? BRIAN BILBRAY: A lot of it is environmental the beach bill the entire wilderness was mine legislation the Clean Water Act and clean air act amendments I got through. I was one of the few members of Congress who actually been an environment regular. I understood the law and I understood there is good regulations and bad regulations. Sadly there are some people in Congress that I've actually worked with environmental regulations they do not understand the difference and you have people on the left who think all regulations are good you have people on the right who think they are all bad and sadly that is one of those things that neither side is right, that's fine people like Roger Revelle worked with Scripps I worked with him and took the time to find from scientists what was really working well and what wasn't, and too many people in Washington are going for the soundbite and siding with one group or the other rather than siding with good science. And that is a big concern I have done everything for medical research to the climate change issue. Good science just tends to get buried by convenient politics. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: After January 15 and after you hopefully get a good diagnosis for your daughter And you take a breather, are you planning to stay active in politics? BRIAN BILBRAY: I'm planning on spending, doing something that I've always wanted to do more than I was able to because, you know, I've been in public office since I was 25 years old. And that is spent time on the ocean. I really want to spend some time on my boat. Want to spend more time surfing, I want to spend more time enjoying the ocean in a way that means a lot to me and my entire family. But, that is my first priority, to finally catch up on things I've been denying myself personally and my family spending some quality time doing the things that matter to us. But my involvement in politics will be more, my intention is more indirect. Obviously I will be working with groups, with the cancer research staff. I think that the one thing politics we've got to do is make sure that government is an aid and not an obstruction to breakthroughs. But, my involvement will be more working here in the community and influence nationally will be working on this research. We were able to put together a great team recognizes the challenges the help to be able to put the team together. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: My last question to you, Congressman, do you have any advice for Scott Peterson BRIAN BILBRAY: Basically take the time to find out what's important to other people and take the time to look for things you agree on and start relationships by building, things you agree on rather than always focusing on the differences. One reason I was able to get so much bipartisan legislation, one reason I was able to move things with guys like Bob Filner is that you overlook your disagreements and try to build relationships by working on a few things you do agree on and once you do that you will find that taking on the things you disagree on is much easier once you've got those personal relationships and those do not come overnight. They come over a long period of time. And so, take the time to figure out what's important to the other guy. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Congressman Brian Bilbray thank you very much BRIAN BILBRAY: Thank you very much and thank you for the chance to be able to work with you and even when we disagree it's been great and let me say to the constituency it's been really a privilege and an honor to be some kid from Imperial Beach is a lifeguard who got Margaret said the next guy to serve as long as I have been able to and so much cooperation thank you very much. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Terrific, thank you.

After a hard-fought race and a squeaker of a finish Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach has conceded defeat in the 52nd Congressional District.

Democrat Scott Peters is ahead by more than 5,000 votes. About 90,000 mail-in or provisional ballots still need to be counted, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

"With the majority of votes counted, I would like to congratulate Scott Peters in his bid to serve the citizens of the 52nd Congressional District and the people of San Diego,'' Bilbray said, adding that he called Peters to congratulate him.

Peters said he has been working hard in Washington, D.C., preparing to get to work.

"I'm encouraged by the tremendous group of colleagues I've met here so far: freshman members of Congress, because like me, they all heard loud and clear during their campaigns that voters are tired of the partisanship, tired of politicians who put party over people,'' Peters said. "I look forward to working with everyone to get things done for San Diego and the American people.''

He thanked those who walked, called, contributed and gave their support, and said it was their energy and enthusiasm that helped him win the close race.

Bilbray and Peters agreed that although the campaign was hard-fought, it was time to put it behind them.

"While Scott and I differed sharply on how to handle the issues facing our nation, now is the time to put those differences aside and find common ground to address our country's many challenges,'' Bilbray said.

Bilbray, who represented the 49th Congressional District from 1995 to 2001 and the 50th Congressional District since 2006, had been a top target of Democrats for years. He survived previous attempts to oust him, however redistricting moved him into some unfamiliar territory for this re-election bid.

He said he took pride in his accomplishments in Congress, like having environmental bills passed and signed into law, protecting veteran benefits with the passage of a two-year budget cycle and protecting the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

"I endeavored to open my colleagues' eyes to the promise of renewable fuels that will one day curb our dependence on foreign oil. And finally, something very close to me, reforming the bureaucracy to get cures to patients faster and increasing medical research funding to one day turn cancer into a manageable disease,'' Bilbray said.

Bilbray said he would continue fighting for issues he believed in and that benefit San Diego, but in a different capacity.

"I look forward to finally having the opportunity to spend time with my family and seven grand kids,'' Bilbray said. "I wish Scott and his family the very best in his endeavors.''

Peters thanked Bilbray for his service and said he looked forward to his support as he transitioned into office.