With over a million dollars being spent and plenty of attacks from both sides, the race in California's 52nd Congressional District has only just started to heat up with less than 40 days left until Election Day. Democratic U.S. Representative Scott Peters, who is about to finish his first term in Congress, is defending his incumbency against Republican candidate Carl DeMaio.
While the race may have seemed like an uphill battle for Peters at one point, as a June Survey USA poll placed candidate DeMaio ahead by 9 points, it has since evolved into a extremely close contest. Peters was ahead of DeMaio by a single point in a September Survey USA poll.
The congressman believes this surge was in part due to a lack of awareness of the race and an endorsement from the Republican-leaning United States Chamber of Commerce.
"Voters don't make their decision in the summer; they start to pay attention after Labor Day," Peters said in an interview for IVN. "The first thing that happened after Labor Day was we got the endorsement of the United States Chamber of Commerce. And if you read their letter, they're pretty adamant that I'm the one in this race that would help spur job creation and help the economic recovery."
DeMaio, however, disagrees that a surge has even occurred.
"We don't really pay too much attention to some of those automated polls," DeMaio said. "My focus is getting my message out and we are thrilled with the response that we are receiving from the voters that people consider toss-up voters: people who are sick of both political parties and want to see people who have a record of getting things done and solving problems. And with those voters, we are doing very well. And I'm pretty confident that we will prevail."
With polls suggesting that less than 10 percent of district voters remain undecided, both Peters and DeMaio are expanding their outreach beyond their respective parties to court independent and moderate voters.Peters' campaign has focused primarily on portraying its candidate as a fiscally responsible Democrat, touting his record on issues such as the economy and health care.
"As they start to pay attention, they'll see that I really have been a leader on standing up for the innovation economy, particularly in the health care space. I've been really working hard on developing ways to support our veterans and ways to make our energy supply more secure." said Peters. "[San Diegans] just want people to be able to work together to get things to happen. That's been my history and I think I've shown it again in Congress and that's what people are noticing."
DeMaio believes the 52nd district is a model for where the rest of the country is headed, and he is the best candidate to represent it.
"This is a seat that reflects the future of America and that is that we are fiscally responsible and socially accepting," DeMaio said. "I think I'm a candidate that fits this district."
DeMaio, who is openly gay, supports gay marriage, abortion rights, and even the legalization of medical marijuana. While these policy positions are not instep with traditional Republican ideas, he believes the party would benefit most from focusing on other issues.
"I think the Republican Party needs to change to be more positive, offering solutions instead of being the 'party of no,'" DeMaio remarked. "I think the Republican Party needs to get off the divisive social issues and focus on the priorities that I laid out: economic reform and fiscal reform."
If there's one things the candidates do agree on, it's the idea that the race ultimately boils down to bipartisanship.
"I think people are still exasperated with Congress," Peters commented. "They are going to be looking at which of the candidates is better positioned to really try to transcend this partisanship we've seen that locks up the place."
"My ability to get reform done -- bringing people together to get reform done -- will be the overarching issue that emerges in this election," said DeMaio.
Image: Rep. Scott Peters on the left, Car DeMaio on the right