- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The newest member of the House of Representatives said yesterday that public “outrage” over illegal aliens was the sole issue that brought him victory in last week’s special election in California.

Republican Rep. Brian P. Bilbray, 55, 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 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.

The new lawmaker noted that 18 politicians ran for the seat, giving voters a broad choice of whom they wanted to represent them after Cunningham’s political disgrace.

“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 hope for winning the seat, hissed.

Mr. Bilbray, a lobbyist, got to work after taking the oath, casting votes and meeting other lawmakers. The walls of his office, formerly Cunningham’s, are still bare, and he is working on hiring staffers. He does not yet have his committee assignments.

Democrat Francine Busby ran better than expected in the overwhelmingly Republican district last Tuesday, but most think she lost some votes because of some comments she made about illegal aliens.

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 under 45 percent.

Mr. Bilbray opposes the so-called “path to citizenship” for illegals in the Senate-passed immigration reform bill and publicly attacked the measure during the campaign.

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

Mr. Bilbray yesterday pledged to help his colleagues work on an immigration compromise that does not reward lawbreakers.

“It’s something that’s basically been ignored to the point that citizens are at a point of outrage,” he told The Washington Times.

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

Mr. Bilbray, who faces a November election rematch with Mrs. Busby, yesterday said voters in San Diego are environmentally sensitive and joked: “I’m grateful today that they believe in recycling congressmen.”

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