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ENCINITAS, Calif. — Considering Democrat Francine Busby garnered fewer votes than the combined total of the 14 Republicans who
ran in California’s 50th district special election primary, and that her national party may be reluctant to
commit significant resources to her next fight, she could face a tall
order in her quest to win the June 6 runoff.
Busby was nonetheless confident and optimistic last week while discussing her chances against former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) in the race to replace disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R) in the heavily Republican northern San Diego County district.
But her strategy — predicated on the notion that the Cunningham scandal has left Republicans demoralized enough to swing voter turnout in Democrats’ favor and that ethics reform is the No. 1 issue voters want addressed — was not necessarily born out by last Tuesday’s returns.
“My support is not just coming from Democrats,” Busby maintained Tuesday in an interview in her hometown of Cardiff, a seaside hamlet just north of San Diego, where she serves on the school board. “It’s coming from Republicans, it’s coming from decline-to-state, independent voters. This is the first time [voters] are having an opportunity to really have a referendum, or voice or a vote about the direction of the country.
“I think it’s competitive because of that; I think the dynamics have changed.”
According to sources, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is unlikely to lend her the kind of support it did in Tuesday’s open primary contest. The committee spent $225,000 on television ads and phone banking for Busby in advance of that election, which could have seen her avoid a runoff had she won more than 50 percent of the vote.
The DCCC, sources say, was not disappointed in her showing or the campaign she ran. But its analysis of the primary — in which Busby finished a strong first in a field of 21 candidates with 44 percent of the vote — has led the DCCC to believe she faces a serious uphill climb in June and that any resources it would spend on her would not be decisive in putting her over the top.
The committee believes its resources would be better spent on a host of other House races shaping up as competitive this November. Busby appeared resigned to this fact last Tuesday even before the ballots were counted.
“I expect the Democratic Party to be very judicious in choosing the races that they can and will invest in, because that’s really what their job is to do,” she said.
EMILY’s List, however, is sounding more optimistic. The powerhouse fundraising group which backs Democratic women who favor abortion rights sent out an e-mail fundraising appeal after Busby won the open primary pronouncing her victory one that “exceeded expectation,” and imploring its donors to contribute to give the Democrat a chance to compete on equal footing with Bilbray.
“While Republicans are on the defensive, Democrats across the country are building momentum at the prospect of a Busby victory in June,” the e-mail said. “EMILY’s List will be behind efforts to win this House seat every step of the way.”