Brian Bilbray and Scott Peters Face Off for the 52nd: Part One

Scott Peters Scott Peters looks to unseat Bilbray.[/caption]

Mike Jacobs, the manager for heavyweight boxing legend Joe Louis, is said to have begun every negotiation by asking, “What’s in it for Uncle Mike?”  It was Jacobs’ way of saying there was no deal unless there was something in it for him. As independent voters go to the polls this election cycle to choose between various political candidates, they need ask themselves the same question, “what’s in it for me?” The race for California’s Congressional 52nd District seat between incumbent Congressman Brian Bilbray(R) and Scott Peters(D) is being polled as a race that could go either way, so this puts independent voters in the position of possibly being the deciding votes.

The question of “what’s in it for me?” now has new significance.  Once a traditional Republican stronghold of conservative leaning suburbs, the 52nd is now in play for the Democrats due to the redistricting that includes more democrat-friendly neighborhoods.

Any campaign for a congressional seat will be advertised as crucial by the candidates, but in this case, the 52nd is being viewed as a prize by both mainstream parties. Both the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) are investing heavily in advertising for their respective candidates: Brian Bilbray and Scott Peters.

Brian Bilbray
Brian Bilbray is the incumbent Congressman.

Outside influences are also financing campaign ads and are responsible for some of the more negative ads. The NRCC is running ads that claim Peters is one of the ten most corrupt Democrats seeking office in 2012. The US Chamber of Commerce is also running pro-Bilbray ads on their YouTube page.

Bilbray and Peters both want the job and their parties want the vote in Congress, but those interests don’t answer the question for independent voters: “What’s in it for me?”

The answer will be different for each unaffiliated voter that casts a ballot.  The independent needs to not only listen to what the campaigns are saying, as well as what they will do and what their opponent won’t do- but more important is what they’ve done and what they are likely to get done.  The independent voter needs to be aware who is supporting and endorsing each candidate and the reason why.

As the incumbent, it’s easier to get a sense of what another Bilbray term would mean. Bilbray sides with the national Republican Party on most issues.  Bilbray’s recent voting record shows that he strongly opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) voting twice for its repeal.  Bilbray states on his website that he is against federal influence in healthcare and favors giving tax incentives for purchasing affordable healthcare.  Bilbray is also campaigning against tax increases at any bracket level.

On international affairs Bilbray voted against removing armed forces from Pakistan and against requiring a time table for withdraw from Afghanistan.  Bilbray has taken a hard line stance on illegal immigration. Bilbray strongly opposes granting amnesty or providing for a public advocate position within the ICE Department (US Immigration Customs and Enforcement) and favors increased funding for more border patrol agents, an increase in efforts to deport illegal aliens, and campaigns for completing a border fence on his campaign website.

Where Bilbray departs from the mainline republican stance on immigration is that he advocates enforcing hard economic penalties on businesses that offer incentives for illegal immigrants to seek work.  Bilbray’s voting record also shows a general opposition for most LGBT rights initiatives voting against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and voting for The Defense of Marriage Act and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Environmental issues are one area where Bilbray has departed from the Republican Party.  On some environmental and conservation issues Bilbray has voted against heavily republican sponsored bills and sided with the majority of the house democrats.  Most notable are his opposing votes to the republican lead Stop the War on Coal Act, which would lessen EPA regulations on the coal industry and the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, which would offer twenty-five percent of federal lands to auction for oil and gas exploration.

These bills were universally favored by the house republicans and equally opposed by the house democrats.  But he has voted against using tax incentives to promote energy law amendments that would give tax credits to consumers who bought energy efficient cars and appliances and companies that invested in solar and wind power.

Bilbray is endorsed by the expected conservative interest groups like the NRA, Americans for Legal Immigration, and the Peace Officers Association of California.  These endorsements are in line with his voting record and campaign promises for increasing law enforcement, his tough stance on illegal immigration, and his championship of traditional conservative values.  Environmental issues are where Bilbray has shown a willingness to stray from the party line and go more independent.  This adds credibility to his campaign claims of wanting to focus on clean renewable energy and jobs related to new energy.

Scott Peters does not have the congressional record to go on.   To get a sense of what a Peters term can do for you requires more speculation.  For Peters one has to look at his record as a city official and make assumptions on how his actions will transfer over to a national office. This is why evaluating campaign statements from a challenger like Peters should be done through a balanced lens. Peters has no record on foreign policy to speak on and comments he does have on foreign policy have the benefit of being from an after the fact perspective.

(Bilbray and Peters Face Off for the 52nd: Part Two continued here).