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Bilbray Plays It Cool in Midst of Tough California Race

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Port Commissioner Scott Peters (center) hopes to rebrand San Diego as a destination for young professionals. The mix of business, military and environmental interests creates a district where partisanship is a turnoff, both candidates in the race said.

Pension reform did not come up in any interaction Peters had over a 24-hour period during which Roll Call trailed the Democratic candidate as he campaigned around San Diego County, including a fundraiser, an early morning labor canvassing rally, door-knocking in Coronado with Rep. Susan Davis (D), a Duke alumni lunch and a small house party.

At a posh Mission Hills home, with a Fisker Karma — an electric luxury sports car — parked out front, Peters was joined at a fundraiser by three former challengers to Bilbray. Democrats Francine Busby, state Sen. Christine Kehoe and Davis, who went to Congress in 2000 by defeating Bilbray, mingled among a few dozen donors who munched on freshly hand-rolled sushi and sipped locally brewed beer.

“Scott’s work on the coastal commission reflects his environmental values, and he has a moderate, balanced approach to business,” Kehoe told Roll Call. Busby, who’s lost to Bilbray three times, including in the hard-fought 2006 special election, said Peters “has a great chance with this, and it’s all going to come down of course to the ‘decline to state’ voters.”

Peters’ stump speech highlights his work to improve a once-blighted area of downtown, which he and Davis took Roll Call on a tour of en route to Coronado on Saturday morning. They pointed out projects they worked on together, such as a pedestrian bridge, and remarked about what more can be done.

“Sometimes I just have to pinch myself,” Davis said while cruising by
topography-defined neighborhoods on the way downtown. “This is San Diego, and it is so cool.”

At a meet and greet that afternoon in Poway, a Republican-leaning city outside San Diego, Peters spoke with about 14 independents and Democrats likely to support him. Peters said he sometimes attends three of these a day. Some attendees handed over checks, and Peters asked all of them to get the word out about the campaign. 

During his 15-minute speech, which was followed by a half-hour of questions, Peters highlighted another accomplishment he touts often — the completion of Highway 56. “It was the highway without a middle for a long time,” he said. “It doesn’t work as well without a middle.” 

One supporter chimed in: “Sounds like politics.”

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