- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Democrat Francine Busby will face Republican Brian P. Bilbray in a runoff election for former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s California seat after neither captured a majority of the vote in Tuesday’s election.

With all precincts reporting, Mrs. Busby, a local school board member, drew 56,147 votes, or 43.9 percent, for the 50th District. She had been expected to be the top finisher among the 18 candidates seeking the San Diego seat because the rest of the vote was split among 14 Republicans on the ballot.

Mr. Bilbray, a lobbyist and former congressman, led the Republican pack with 19,366 votes, or 15.2 percent. Close behind was Republican Eric Roach, a businessman with 18,486 votes or 14.5 percent.

There are still 10,000 absentee ballots that have not been counted, said Roach spokesman Stan Devereux. Once that is done, the campaign will determine if requesting a recount is necessary, he said.

Also on the June 6 runoff ballot will be independent candidate William Griffith and Libertarian candidate Paul King, who each received less than 1 percent of the vote Tuesday.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters aims to certify the results by April 21 to print the June ballot.

The winner of the runoff contest will serve the remainder of Mr. Cunningham’s term and will be eligible for re-election in November. Mr. Bilbray is favored to win because party registration is overwhelmingly Republican in the district, just miles from the Mexican border.

The seat has been vacant since November, when Mr. Cunningham, a Republican, stepped down amid a bribery scandal. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion and to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and will serve more than eight years in prison.

Mr. Bilbray was elected to Congress in 1994 and served two terms in California’s 53rd District, but was defeated for a third term by Democrat Susan Davis, who still holds the seat.

He has made immigration reform a focus of his campaign.

Mrs. Busby is a school board member in Cardiff, Calif., and has worked with nonprofits. She has made ethics the focus of her campaign, telling voters that she is running to show that corruption is not welcome in Congress.

Mrs. Busby challenged Cunningham in 2004, but he beat her 58 percent to 36 percent.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois said Mrs. Busby’s win shows that voters of all parties “simply want change.”

“In a Republican district, Busby showed that Democratic candidates for change can and will make status-quo, politics-as-usual Republicans fight for their political lives in every corner of this country,” he said.

The same day as the runoff election, voters will choose party nominees for the 50th District’s November general election, along with nominees for governor and other statewide offices.

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