REGION: Candidates in last-minute push
North County Times (2010-10-29) Mark Walker
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More Info: CA 50 Congressional District
REGION: Candidates in last-minute push
REGISTRAR REPORTS MORE THAN 303,000 BALLOTS ALREADY CAST THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING
It's crunch time for the candidates.
Expect the phone to ring, knocks on the door and people waving campaign signs this weekend as candidates for city, state, federal and local taxing districts make their last-minute push for votes.
For more than 300,000 San Diego County voters, what the candidates have to say in the final hours before Tuesday's election won't matter much. County Registrar Deborah Seiler says more than 303,000 ballots from people who vote by mail had been received through Friday morning.
More than 700,000 county voters signed up to cast their ballots that way this fall, half of the electorate.
That means that most of the dozens of candidates will know by about 8:30 Tuesday evening if they won or lost. The first returns reported by the registrar at about that time typically reflect the choices of about 400,000 voters.
Except in close races, the percentages the candidates get won't change much from the first set of returns until all the votes are counted.
Southwest Riverside County
Even if they had little chance of success, candidates expressed confidence in the waning days.
That was certainly the case in Southwest Riverside County on Friday, where the campaign of 45th Congressional District Rep. Mary Bono Mack issued a news release declaring victory over Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.
Republican Bono Mack and Democrat Pougnet have been locked in a bitter, hard-fought campaign for a district that has some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the country.
The incumbent since 1998, Bono Mack in a release said she was expecting a "double-digit win."
Campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney said the campaign against Pougnet has been intense with millions spent on both sides and the airwaves flooded with ads.
"It's obvious voters want Mary to stay in Congress to continue her fight against the liberal agenda," Mahoney said.
Pougnet spokesman Jordan Marks said Bono Mack is in for a shock.
"We've been fighting like hell here and we're very excited," he said. "We've laid all the necessary groundwork, there's a changing demographic and people know who is going to fight for them and it's not Mary Bono Mack."
Aided by the Democratic National Campaign Committee in making 5,000 calls a day, the well-organized and well-funded Pougnet effort has made the 45th District one considered "in play" by the national party.
North San Diego County
The rematch between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby in the 50th Congressional District and the county supervisor's race between Bill Horn and Steve Gronke has drawn most of the attention.
Busby claims Bilbray is a tool of lobbyists and doesn't represent district interests. Bilbray, who bested her in a special election in June 2006 and again later that November, says Busby is too liberal and supports administration policies that most Americans oppose.
"I'm looking forward to the election and getting back to work," Bilbray said Friday.
Busby said she voted Friday morning. She said she and her supporters will work night and day through Tuesday to get as many votes as they can.
How much work gets done in Washington after Tuesday isn't clear. If the GOP retakes the House, Bilbray predicted nothing will get done until the new Congress convenes in January.
"It won't be until January that everyone will have to sit down and start working together," he said.
Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Darrell Issa, R-Vista, enjoy huge registration advantages over their Democratic and minor party challengers.
Issa, poised to become chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee assuming his re-election and a GOP takeover, has done little campaigning this fall.
His Democratic challenger, Howard Katz of Temecula, says he's banking on the anti-incumbent mood.
"I think it's much closer than people think," Katz said of the race.
The youngest Congressional candidate in the region, 26-year-old Libertarian Mike Paster of Fallbrook, said if he doesn't win this time, he will run against Issa again in 2012.
"It's been really rewarding," Paster said of his first run for elective office. "I feel I'm doing the right thing and that people are more accepting of the Libertarian point of view."
In the 52nd Congressional District, which includes Poway and Ramona, Democrat Ray Lutz got national attention when he went on an 11-day hunger strike in an effort to get incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter to agree to a series of debates.
"That helped us a lot," Lutz said. "We got a lot of attention."
Hunter, who agreed to a single debate, has staked out many of the same conservative policy positions as his father, who held the seat for nearly three decades.
San Diego County Supervisor
At the top of the local races is the effort by Bill Horn to hold onto his San Diego County supervisor's seat for a fifth consecutive four-year-term.
The Valley Center resident favored by the business and development community will be out waving signs in Oceanside and Carlsbad this weekend in his effort to stave off the challenge from Vista City Councilman Steve Gronke.
He said he used up a full tank of gas traveling to various campaign events on Thursday.
"It's been a hard race, but I feel good about it," Horn said, adding he's been a little surprised by last-minute union spending on advertising for Gronke.
Gronke said he also plans on standing at various North County street corners waving signs through Tuesday.
He's focused his union-backed campaign on the cities, he said.
"That's where the population is and I already know the people in the backcountry don't like Bill Horn," he said. "I'm running hard all the way to the end and feel pretty good about my chances."
The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.
Call staff writer Mark Walker at 760-740-3529.