Democratic challenger unseats longtime Republican incumbent.
According to a report first published by the UT-San Diego, Republican Representative Brian Bilbray has conceded his race for reelection to Democratic challenger Scott Peters.
As the polls closed on Election Day and as the vote counts began coming in from the Registrar of Voters, Bilbray maintained a lead throughout the night. But the margin started shrinking as more precincts reported in. As the clock ticked toward midnight on Nov. 7, the two candidates were separated by a mere 13 votes. By 1:30am, Peters had gained a 321 vote advantage.
It was a lead he would never relinquish, and that would continue to grow as the Registrar turned its focus to mail-in and absentee ballots. As of last night, that margin stood at 3,877 votes in favor of Scott Peters.
Peters was in Washington, D.C., attending a freshman orientation for new lawmakers when he received the call.
Peters joins Raul Ruiz, who unseated longtime Rep. Mary Bono-Mack in California’s 36th District, and Ami Bera, who was declared the winner by the Associated Press over veteran lawmaker Dan Lungren in the 7th District in Sacramento. Lungren was a leader in the Republican House Caucus and is currently the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the orientation of newly elected legislators.
Redistricting forced Bilbray from his previous CA 50th District, previously located primarily in coastal North San Diego County, where he enjoyed a heavy advantage in Republican registration over his former Democratic challnegers. That advantage shrunk in the newly redrawn 52nd, where the Republican advantage over Democrats was merely two percentage points, with “Decline to State” voters making up roughly one-third of the voters there.
Update: The Peters campaign released this statement:
“This afternoon, I received a very gracious phone call from Congressman Brian Bilbray. He wished me luck and offered his support. We agreed that while it was a tough, hard-fought campaign, now is the time to put it behind us. I thanked him for his service and look forward to his support as I transition into office.
“I’m in our nation’s capitol this week, working hard, and getting ready to hit the ground running on behalf of the people of the 52nd District. I am very grateful to the hundreds of people who walked, called, contributed and gave me their support; it was their energy and enthusiasm that put us over the top in this close race.
“There’s much to do. I’m encouraged by the tremendous group of colleagues I’ve met here so far: freshman members of Congress, because like me, they all heard loud and clear during their campaigns that voters are tired of the partisanship, tired of politicians who put party over people. I look forward to working with everyone to get things done for San Diego and the American people.”
Peters said in a brief phone interview that Mr. Bilbray was very gracious when he called to concede. ”He said something like ‘I’m making that phone call you’ve been working so hard to get.’” He said that Bilbray suggested that he find a place close to the Capitol to live while in D.C., and offered to assist in any way he can to ease the transition.
Peters said he would “absolutely” carry on the work that Bilbray had touted in the closing days of the campaign on cancer research. ”Not only is it an important cause, but it’s critical to the San Diego economy. We need to continue to promote basic scientific research, and hopefully San Diego will be the place that finds a cure for cancer.”
Asked about his experience at the orientation in Washington for newly elected members of Congress and the reception he had received despite not yet having been officially declared the winner, he said “I’m just here trying to learn this job so that we can hit the ground running,” adding ”I can’t wait to get back and visit Ocean Beach. It’s cold out here!”
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