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GOP Rep. Bilbray loses re-election bid in Calif

Posted: November 16, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2012 2:00 p.m.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray lost his re-election bid to represent a wide swath of San Diego, marking the latest blow to the Republican delegation in California.

Democratic challenger Scott Peters edged out Bilbray in the newly drawn 52nd Congressional District. About 90 percent of the district's voters live in San Diego, with the rest in Poway and Coronado.

Bilbray, who served since 2006 in California's 50th district, ran in a competitive district drawn by the state's independent citizens redistricting panel.

The Associated Press declared Peters, a Port of San Diego commissioner, the winner on Friday with 50.72 percent compared with Bilbray at 49.28 percent.

Bilbray conceded, saying he would continue to fight for the issues he believes in and that benefit San Diego, only in a different capacity. He was not more specific about his plans.

"While Scott and I differed sharply on how to handle the issues facing our nation, now is the time to put those differences aside and find common ground to address our country's many challenges," Bilbray said in a statement.

Peters said Bilbray called to wish him well and offer help during the transition. Reached in Washington, Peters said he has been working "dawn to dusk" during orientation for new members of Congress.

"It's a relief to get (Bilbray's) phone call because part of my day has been answering questions about whether it's over. The math looked good, but it's good to have it official," he said.

The San Diego race was the final congressional race in California to be called after the Nov. 6 election and shifts the delegation to 38 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Before the Nov. 6 election, California's congressional delegation had 33 Democrats, 19 Republicans and one vacancy in a Democratic district.

The 61-year-old Bilbray previously served in the 49th district, from 1995 to 2001.

The newly drawn district was highly competitive after the independent panel redrew California's legislative and congressional district boundaries in 2010, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on outside political spending. Outside groups poured more than $8.2 million into this race alone.

Peters reported raising nearly $2.2 million for his campaign through the end of September, the most recent fundraising figures available. Bilbray raised more than $2.1 million through the third quarter reporting period.

For days after the election, the race was too close to call, along with two other U.S. House contests in California. San Diego County is still counting mail-in and provisional ballots.

Longtime Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack lost her seat to Democrat Raul Ruiz, a Harvard-educated physician who mobilized the Riverside County district's growing swath of Hispanic voters. In the suburbs south and east of Sacramento, Republican Rep. Dan Lungren narrowly lost to Democratic challenger Ami Bera, a physician.

National Democrats and Republicans kept a close eye on the contests, eager to pick up seats in the largest-in-the-nation congressional delegation. With Democrats increasing their number in California's delegation, it gives the party a boost in trying to retake the House majority in two years.

Super PACs and other outside groups flooded California's House races with more money than any other state under new rules allowing unrestricted outside political spending. Spending reached at least $54 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The GOP was disadvantaged, having been hit by a declining number of registered Republicans and independent redistricting, which meant Republicans such as Bilbray faced vastly different constituencies than when they were first elected.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



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