SAN DIEGO -
One of the most expensive and hotly contested races in the country heated up on Friday.
National super PACs have poured millions of dollars – mostly as negative ads – into the 52nd Congressional District race and the candidates' debate at the 10News studio illustrated just how high the stakes are.
"If he cannot cross the aisle while he's a port commissioner, how is he going to do it as a congressman?" asked Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray, going after Democrat Scott Peters.
The 52nd District, which was once considered safely Republican, has been redrawn and is now basically equal parts Republican, Democrat and independent.
Bilbray, who currently represents the 50th District, finds himself in a tight race against Port Commissioner and former San Diego City Councilman Peters.
"I have support across the political spectrum that he can't claim," Peters said.
The debate became lively during a question about Peter's city council tenure during the city's pension crisis.
"The fact is Mr. Peters is going to go down in history as the 'Madoff' of the city of San Diego and the voters by a 2-to-1 vote had to vote to reverse the mess that he created," said Bilbray. "Question is, if he goes to Washington, he does the same thing to Social Security and Medicare, the voters won't have the ability to go back and clean up the mess."
Peters responded, "Well, that's just totally inaccurate. You know the city of San Diego had three decades of bad pension practices and while I did make a bad vote early in my career before I was council president, we're the council that worked to end that… end those practices. We made pension underfunding illegal."
National super PACS have injected more than $4 million into the race. That is roughly $2 million each in negative ads.
The race is expected to stay heated until the end.
"He was the leader who led the city to that precipice that created the Enron by the sea," said Bilbray, who was referring to Peters.
"We're represented by a senior member of the majority party who seems to think that things are going fine. Well, I don't," said Peters, who was talking about Bilbray.
To put things in perspective, while the super PACs are spending millions of dollars on this race, each candidate has spent hundreds of thousands.
The full debate will air on Monday, Oct. 22 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC10.