- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

1:34 p.m.

The newest member of the House of Representatives said today that illegal immigration was the sole issue that brought him victory in last week’s special election in California.

Republican Brian P. Bilbray took his oath of office for his seat in California’s 50th District, one of the closest congressional districts to the border. He fills the seat left vacant by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a felon serving jail time for accepting bribes on behalf of defense contractors.

“We did not enjoy the situation or appreciate the problem that created the vacancy, but let me say quite clearly, what is obvious in the last few months is the greatest scandal in America is not that one man broke the law but that 12 million illegal immigrants are in this country and Washington isn’t doing enough about it,” Mr. Bilbray told his colleagues on the House floor.

Mr. Bilbray noted that 18 politicians made bids for the seat, giving voters a broad choice for whom they wanted to represent them after Cunningham’s political demise.

“There was one issue and only one issue that allowed me to be elected,” Mr. Bilbray said. “It was not my experience, it was not my hard work, and God knows it wasn’t my intellect. It was the fact the people in the 50th District wanted something done, they wanted a job and a message sent to Washington that now and here is the time to address illegal immigration.”

Republicans in the chamber applauded, while Democrats, who had held high hopes for winning the seat, hissed.

Democrat Francine Busby performed better than expected in the overwhelmingly Republican district last Tuesday, but most believe she lost some votes because of some comments she made about illegals.

In the weeks before the race, Mrs. Busby made headlines for telling a Hispanic man, “Everybody can help — you don’t need papers for voting, you don’t need to be a registered voter to help.”

Ultimately, Mr. Bilbray got 48.5 percent of the vote and Mrs. Busby received 45 percent.

Mr. Bilbray opposes the so-called path to citizenship in the Senate-passed immigration reform bill and publicly attacked the measure on the campaign trail.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who helped craft the compromise legislation, canceled a fundraiser for Mr. Bilbray right before the election because the two differed so much on the immigration issue.

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