SD voters to decide congressional races

Bilbray, Peters face off

SAN DIEGO -  

The big question in Tuesday's election for congressional seats in San Diego is whether the local delegation will get one new member or two.

The decision of Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, to run for mayor of San Diego left an opening in the district that includes the South Bay and Imperial County. Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, will take on Michael Crimmins to become the first new local congressman since Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, succeeded his father four years ago.

Port Commissioner Scott Peters will try to make it two new faces among San Diego's five-member congressional delegation. The former San Diego City Council president is challenging Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach -- long a Democratic target.

The three other incumbents -- Hunter, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego -- are in safe districts that should return them to office.

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

Peters has tried to paint Bilbray as a tool of far-right elements of the GOP 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.

"I will absolutely fight to protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security today and into the future," Peters said. "These are benefits seniors have earned over a lifetime of hard work."

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.

"Scott Peters left San Diego's pension system with a $1.4 billion deficit and put hardworking taxpayers on the hook to pay for this fraudulent activity," Bilbray said. He claimed Peters wanted to underfund the port's pension system, too.

Peters said he has been endorsed by a large number of community groups, including the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare, Sierra Club and numerous unions. No business associations have endorsed him, but he has received backing as an individual by Lani Lutar, executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

Bilbray has received endorsements from area business leaders and touts his work to help veterans and promote cancer research.

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