KPBS: San Diego’s High-Profile Congressional Race: District 52
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Only seven of the 435 congressional seats this year are rated a "pure toss up" by the nonpartisanRothenberg Political Report. One of them is in San Diego.
In the 52nd District, one-term Democratic Congressman Scott Peters is challenged by three Republicans: former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, former Marine officer Kirk Jorgensen and surgeon Fred Simon.
The top two vote-getters in the June 3 primary will advance to a November runoff. In California's open primary system, approved by voters in 2010, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of their party. So while Peters is expected to face a Republican, likely DeMaio, it's possible that two Republicans could face each other in November.
Because the race is one of the few nail biters in this year's midterm elections, it's attracting a lot of money and attention. Last week, President Barack Obama came to San Diego to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports Peters, while DeMaio was recently interviewed nationally on Fox News.
Three of the four candidates have so far raised more than $1 million: Peters has $1,847,775; DeMaio has $1,608,926; and Simon has $1,382,008, although $1,353,000 is money Simon loaned himself. Jorgensen has $277,696.
And it's only the primary. As we head to November, even more money, including spending from outside political action committees, will pour in, said San Diego Mesa College politics professor Carl Luna.
"This is getting national attention. The Koch brothers have been putting money in through their Super PAC. The National Democratic Committee is putting money in," Luna said. "When you only have a half dozen or so really competitive races, it's going to attract attention, and it's kind of a signpost for (whether) Republicans stay competitive in a shifting California."
The district's voter registration is split: 33.8 percent are Republicans, 32.3 percent are Democrats and 28.7 percent are independent.
The district's boundaries were sharply shifted by 2010 redistricting. It now runs north from Coronado to La Jolla, and then east to include Carmel Valley, Scripps Ranch, Poway and Rancho Bernardo. It's 69 percent white and 20 percent Asian, and 56 percent of district residents have a bachelor's degree, according to 2011 Census data.
In 2012, Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray, who had previously represented the 50th District, ran against Peters in the 52nd. The hotly contested race ultimately went to Peters, but it was close. Peters won by just under 7,000 votes.
The toss-up rating isn't the only thing that makes the 52nd race interesting. The candidates are a diverse group. Here's a quick run-down:
Peters said he's focused his work in Congress on things that help San Diego.
"So part of that is supporting the innovation economy and the job creation there, part of it is clean technology and the third part is veterans," he told KPBS.
Peters has sponsored bills to improve housing for elderly homeless veterans and to provide grants for infrastructure improvements at border crossings. He's also working with the Military Transition Support Project to help people as they leave military service.
Peters said he works well with San Diego's other congressional representatives, both Democrats and Republicans. One example, he said, is the $226 million for border infrastructure funding included in the most recent federal budget.
"Most people who've seen the five of us working together don't remember a time when our delegation has been as cooperative and collaborative and productive as it is now," he said. "That's largely a factor of having people who want to work together, who put the country and San Diego before party. "
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