Scott Peters leading Brian Bilbray in 52nd Congressional District race

Approx. 600 votes separate Peters, Bilbray

SAN DIEGO - The vote count will resume Thursday in the close race between Democratic Port Commissioner Scott Peters and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, who narrowly trails in his bid to go back to Washington, D.C. for another term.

Peters leads by 685 votes, but the Registrar of Voters office still has to count about 475,000 absentee and provisional ballots, many of which came from the 52nd Congressional District.

"Let me state clearly: we don't know how this election's going to turn out tonight. We may not know in days," Bilbray said on election night.

"This race is far from over," Patrick Howell, a campaign spokesman for Bilbray, told City News Service Wednesday. He said Bilbray, a top Democratic target for years, is spending time at home with family.

Howell called the race one of the closest in California history.

Peters told 10News, "I've been through this a few times. They'll have a process of finishing up these ballots. We feel like we had such a good day yesterday on the ground and getting out the vote. We're in good shape."

If his margin holds, Peters would be the second new member in San Diego's five-person congressional delegation.

Democrats believed they have a strong chance to unseat Bilbray, after redistricting moved his district into unfamiliar inland territory.

Peters attempted to paint Bilbray as a tool of far-right elements of the Republican Party who wants to privatize Social Security, make Draconian cuts to education and scientific research and reduce the social safety net for the elderly, ill and disabled.

Bilbray has denied Peters' claims on entitlements and contends Peters is largely to blame for the city of San Diego's one-time fiscal mess, which occurred while he was a councilman, and has taken to calling his opponent the "Bernie Madoff of San Diego."

The reference to the financier who committed the largest financial fraud scheme in U.S. history relates to the underfunding of the city of San Diego's employee pension system, which sent municipal finances into a tailspin.

Early Tuesday morning, Peters voted in La Jolla, while Bilbray cast his ballot in Pacific Beach. The race has been expensive and very close, as super PACs have given more than $4 million for local ads -- mostly negative.

Peters said he was confident about the results and feels he can make the change needed in government.

"[I will] go to Washington and take the attitude we have in San Diego, which is we work together to get things done. That's what I've done, whether it's working on downtown, or cleaning up beaches and bays, or completing Highway 56, or expanding the convention center," Peters said.

Bilbray, who brought his daughter Briana, to vote with him, argues he has the experience to fight for San Diegans.

"Having somebody that actually knows how to get the job done is important. [It's] critical. We don't have time to have somebody to go back to Washington and try to learn the rules of the game. We need somebody who can start immediately and that's what I plan on doing."

When asked about the redistricting, Bilbray told 10News the new lines are "exciting."

Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, swamped Republican Michael Crimmins with nearly 71 percent of the vote in the 51st District, which includes part of southern San Diego County and Imperial County. Vargas will succeed Rep. Bob Filner, who vacated his seat for his apparently successful run for mayor of San Diego.

Three incumbents -- Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego -- were all re-elected by wide margins.
 

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