Peters, DeMaio Headed For November Showdown in San Diego's 52nd Congressional District
As expected, incumbent Congressman Scott Peters, a Democrat, and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, are headed for a November showdown in the the 52nd Congressional District race.
Peters held a six- to seven-point lead over DeMaio throughout election night.
Businessman Kirk Jorgensen and surgeon Dr. Fred Simon Jr., both Republicans, were a distant third and fourth.
DeMaio told supporters at the US Grant hotel downtown that he's calling on the Republican party to be more inclusive.
"San Diegans want the Republican Party in particular to return to its traditional roots in favor of personal freedoms in all aspects of our lives," he said.
He said to change the country, "we must first change our party."
"Stop being the party of 'no,' you've gotta have some really good solutions somewhere, put them out there, fight for them, articulate and try to build consensus to get those ideas implemented with 'yes' votes," he said.
Gearing up for his contest against DeMaio, Peters said the Republican is trying to "reinvent himself." He said he's focused on the coming race leading up to November.
"We'll talk about two things, one is my record of bringing people together in bipartisanship, really a San Diego-focus, to the district, which is built around innovation, military, veterans, clean energy and the environment and bringing real resources to San Diego," Peters said.
He said he and the other San Diego congressional representatives brought $350 million to the region "by working together here."
"And then we'll have to explain to people Mr. DeMaio's record, which he's trying to remake," Peters said. "He really has a Tea Party extremist record."
DeMaio, who is openly gay and hugged his partner Johnathan Hale before his speech, said his party needs to stop trying to legislate social issues.
"Some in the national media believe my candidacy is unique because of who I love and who I share my life with; I say my candidacy is unique because I get things done in government," he said.
Political analyst Thad Kousser told KPBS News that Peters and DeMaio are going to spend millions on campaigning as they go forward. "We're going to be sick of their television commercials by November," Kousser said.
Peters and DeMaio were the frontrunners expected to advance in the high-profile race for the 52nd. The district is just one of seven congressional seats in the nation this year rated a "pure toss up" by the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
Part of the reason is because the district's voter registration is split: 33.8 percent are Republicans, 32.3 percent are Democrats and 28.7 percent are independent. Peters won the seat from incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray in 2012 by only 7,000 or so votes.
The district runs north from Coronado to La Jolla, and then east to include Carmel Valley, Scripps Ranch, Poway and Rancho Bernardo. It's 69 percent white and 20 percent Asian, and 56 percent of district residents have a bachelor's degree, according to 2011 Census data.
Because the race is one of the few nail biters in this year's midterm congressional elections, it's attracting a lot of money and attention. Three of the four candidates have so far raised more than $1 million: Peters has $1,847,775; DeMaio has $1,608,926; and Simon has $1,382,008, although $1,353,000 is money Simon loaned himself. Jorgensen has $277,696.
San Diego Mesa College politics professor Carl Luna said as the race heads to November, even more money, including spending from outside political action committees, will pour in.
"This is getting national attention. The Koch brothers have been putting money in through their Super PAC. The National Democratic Committee is putting money in," Luna said. "When you only have a half dozen or so really competitive races, it's going to attract attention, and it's kind of a signpost for (whether) Republicans stay competitive in a shifting California."
La Jolla resident Peters, 55, worked as an environmental lawyer and then served on the San Diego City Council from 2000 to 2008. He then became a commissioner at the Port of San Diego and was elected to Congress in 2012.
Peters said he's focused his work in Congress on things that help San Diego.
"So part of that is supporting the innovation economy and the job creation there, part of it is clean technology and the third part is veterans," he told KPBS.
Rancho Bernardo resident DeMaio, 39, ran The Performance Institute and the American Strategic Management Institute, for-profit businesses that train government workers and corporate leaders on efficiency and financial practices. He was elected to San Diego's City Council in 2008.
In 2012, DeMaio ran for mayor but lost to then-Congressman Bob Filner by 5 percentage points. Less than a year later, Filner resigned as mayor over sexual harassment allegations.
His campaign is focusing on fiscal discipline, including his "Fix Congress First" plan, which would require all legislative language be posted online for 72 hours before a vote, eliminate the congressional pension program and take away congressional salaries if a budget isn't passed.
DeMaio also calls himself a "New Generation Republican" who wants the GOP to focus on fiscal, not social, conservatism. DeMaio is gay and made an online campaign ad that shows him and his partner, Johnathan Hale, holding hands and marching in a gay pride parade.
Black Mountain Ranch resident Jorgensen, 43, focused his campaign on repealing Obama's health care law, simplifying the tax code to make sure "American corporate tax rates encourage job creation and allow us to compete in the global marketplace" and protecting the Second Amendment.
Coronado resident Simon, 61, focused his campaign on education and health care. He wants to limit federal expansion into the education system, create more vocational schools to provide job training and opposes Obama's health care law.