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U.S. Chamber Endorses Scott Peters In San Diego’s 52nd Congressional Race

Photo caption: Congressman Scott Peters speaks at a news conference at his campaign office, ...

Photo by Claire Trageser

Congressman Scott Peters speaks at a news conference at his campaign office, Sept. 3, 2014.

The U.S. Chamber has endorsed more than 260 candidates in the 2014 election cycle. Only four are Democrats and one of them is Scott Peters, running against Republican Carl DeMaio.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce made the rare decision Wednesday to endorse Democratic Congressman Scott Peters, who's running for reelection in a tight race in the 52nd Congressional District.

The business lobbying group has endorsed more than 260 candidates in the 2014 election cycle, and only four are Democrats, according to Blair Latoff Holmes, a chamber spokesman. That number includes Wednesday's Peters endorsement.

In a letter dated August 29, 2014 and posted on U-T San Diego's website, Thomas Donohue, the chamber's CEO and president, wrote that Peters has supported pro-business issues.

"In today’s economy, it is critical that Members of Congress provide strong support of free enterprise and leadership for policies that will return the United States to its full growth potential," he wrote. "We believe that your re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives will help produce sustained economic growth, help create jobs, and get our country back on track."

The U.S. Chamber endorsed Peters's opponent, Republican Brian Bilbray, in the 2012 election.

At a news conference, Peters said the endorsement demonstrates he is a moderate candidate who can work with diverse groups.

"The facts speak louder than the rhetoric," Peters said. "The fact is, I'm proud to be the real independent, the real problem solver, the real consensus builder. That's been my record."

Peters said because the U.S. Chamber is an independent group, he doesn't know whether the endorsement will come with funding for political ads.

"We take (the endorsement) as validation that we're doing the right thing, we hope San Diegans will notice that. We think they will, and if other things come with it, that's great. But we're really happy with today's announcement," he said.

Mel Katz, a former head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and current executive of Manpower, said that Peters "works with Republicans and Democrats to forge consensus instead of conflict."

"Scott Peters is the only candidate business leaders trust to end the partisan divisiveness that has gridlocked Congress," Katz said.

A spokeswoman for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce said the organization is not making an endorsement in the 52nd District race, but that the local chamber "has partnered in legislation with Congressmember Peters and his office has been very helpful to the Chamber."

Dave McCulloch, a spokesman for Peters' Republican opponent Carl DeMaio, waited outside the Peters news conference and spoke to reporters in the parking lot. He said the U.S. Chamber is "a big organization with ties to special interests" and that DeMaio doesn't change his opinions based on who's endorsing him.

Rob Engstrom, the U.S. Chamber's vice president for political affairs, posted on Twitter that DeMaio's campaign "actively sought our endorsement" and called DeMaio's dismissal of the chamber "sour grapes."

When asked whether DeMaio sought the chamber's endorsement, McCulloch said, "The special interests in Washington know that when Carl comes to Washington, that he's going to take the perks away from those special interests. So Carl's someone who's certainly making a name for himself in improving the way Washington works, and this endorsement is showing that big organizations and big Washington groups are trying to keep the status quo and Carl's not."

Asked again whether DeMaio sought the chamber's endorsement, McCulloch said, "Carl does not change his viewpoints of the United States based on who's endorsing him. He did apply for the endorsement, but he does not change his opinions based on who's endorsing him."

Carl Luna, a politics professor at San Diego Mesa College, said Peters is receiving more support than DeMaio from local business political action committees in large part because "incumbents as established winners are a better bet to win reelection most of the time than challengers."

He said the U.S. Chamber's endorsement highlights a growing divide between the pro-business and the "anti-elite, big business Tea Party wing" in the Republican party.

"That the chamber is willing to support a moderate-liberal pro-business Democrat over the more conservative Republican in this race is something of a shot across the GOP bow by big business, warning not to allow Tea Party populism to become too dominant in the House membership," Luna said. "Meanwhile the endorsement is another indication that Carl DeMaio, trying to blend his positions as a social-values moderate with Tea Party populism, may have hit a glass ceiling in his pursuit of higher office."

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