By Miriam Raftery
June 6, 2012 (San Diego) – He’s a winner, yet perhaps the biggest loser in San Diego’s June primary election. Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray captured just 41.30% of the vote—first place, enough to secure his spot in the fall run-off, but not exactly a decisive victory for an incumbent legislator. Worse from Bilbray’s point of view, his two strongest competitors—both Democrats—combined to take over 45% of the vote.
With 100% of precincts counted and only provisional and some absentee ballots remaining to be tallied, Democrat Scott Peters, a former City Council president, has 22.58% of the vote, a razor-thin lead over former Assemblymember Lori Saldana, who has 21.98%.
The race included several lesser-known candidates who placed as follows:
- Jack Doyle, former Santee Mayor - 4.05%
- John Stahl, Republican – 3.52%
- Wayne Iverson, Republican – 2.97%
- Shirley Decourt-Park –Democrat, 1.58%
- Ehab t. Shehata 0.76%
- John Subka, Republican 0.72%
- Gene Carswell, Republican 0.54%
With around 13% of voters casting ballots for candidates other than the top 3 contenders, the wild card in this race will be who those voters choose to support. While it’s likely that liberal Saldana voters would line up behind Peters rather than the conservative Bilbray (or Peters voters shift allegiance to Saldana, should she win in a race still too close to call), it’s a tough call to predict what those who voted for candidates who listed no party alliance will support. Nor is it a safe assumption that all who snubbed Bilbray to vote for lesser-known Republicans will necessarily fall in line come November.
Saldana, who mounted a tough campaign centered on her progressive record, had not conceded as of late last night, though the long-time liberal champion’s chances waned as the evening wore on. Jack Doyle, former Santee Mayor who ran with no party affiliation listed, and Tea Party favorite John Stahl also faced disappointments in their quests to wrestle a top spot from better-known and better-funded opponents.
Bilbray faces a tough race as pressures on the campaign trail intensify. An independent expenditure PAC that formed during the primary also targeted Bilbray, urging voters to support “anybody but a lobbyist,” citing Bilbray’s past as a registered lobbyist and recent record of taking large contributions from special interests, then voting for their agendas.
For Democrats, meanwhile, the redrawn 52nd Congressional election is being targeted at the national level with major funds, as the party aspires to snatch a House seat away from Republican control.