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California - 51st District

Incumbent -- Bob Filner (D) ; Running for mayor of San Diego (announced June 8, 2011)

Safe Democratic
Race Ratings Key

CQ Politics rates this race as "Safe," meaning the incumbent party is virtually certain to win the seat.


District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

The part-urban, part-rural 51st runs along almost the entire length of California's border with Mexico, except for the western tip at the Pacific Ocean. In the east, it takes in all of Imperial County, and near the Pacific, it climbs north from the border to include part of central San Diego and some close-in suburbs. Rural Imperial County, which relies heavily on its agricultural yields and tends to have very high unemployment, is 80 percent Hispanic.

The 51st's part of San Diego, which starts south and east of downtown, is working-class, crime-ridden and heavily Hispanic. Local shopping centers are a draw for Mexican shoppers. Chula Vista attracted upscale housing developers in the last decade but recently has struggled with high foreclosure rates. South of Chula Vista and across the border from Tijuana, Otay Mesa is a busy port of entry -- there are plans to expand facilities to the east of the existing border crossing -- that is known for manufacturing plants that have twin sites in Mexico.

Water is a concern in the 51st. Both San Diego and Imperial counties are under pressure to reduce their dependency on the Colorado River, and a proposed solution -- to lower the Salton Sea's high salinity and pesticide levels -- has environmentalists concerned about the local ecosystem and migratory birds.

The Hispanic-majority district gave Democrat Barack Obama 63 percent of its 2008 presidential vote. Voters in Imperial are more conservative than their city cousins, but still lean heavily Democratic. Border issues, particularly illegal immigration -- which fills many agricultural labor jobs -- is a key issue here. Ranchers and growers see illegal immigration as a necessary source of labor, while others say it threatens the district's quality of life.

Major Industry

Service, manufacturing, agriculture, retail

Military Bases

Naval Station San Diego (shared with the 53rd), 23,205 military, 5,768 civilian (2011); El Centro Naval Air Facility, 95 military, 131 civilian (2010)


San Diego (pt.), 252,194; Chula Vista, 243,916; National City, 58,582


El Centro is the winter training home of the Navy's Blue Angels.




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