Republicans dodged a bullet last week when former Congressman Brian Bilbray was elected to the seat held by convicted felon Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who now sits in a federal prison. The Democrats had been pushing the theme that Republicans represented "a culture of corruption." If ever they should have been able to capitalize on that theme it was in California's 50th District. Indeed Francine Busby, the Democratic candidate, had been leading Bilbray for weeks in various surveys, although the race looked to be very close. Cunningham actually had a list of bribes and how much a certain type defense contract would cost. In the end and some $4.5 million later, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee had themselves a winner. They breathed a collective sigh of relief when Bilbray won because many of them believed that if Bilbray lost their fate in November would have been sealed.
The President and GOP Senatorial leaders could not have been that happy over the Bilbray victory. Known as a liberal Republican during his first terms in Congress, Bilbray turned out to be a Tom Tancredo Republican as to immigration. He supported the House bill on immigration and his Democratic opponent supported the Senate bill, backed by the President. Moreover Ms. Busby a few days before the election was recorded by one of the Minutemen attending a largely Hispanic rally as saying in response to a question that you didn't need papers to vote. The questioner, with a Mexican accent, asked Busby how he could help since he didn't have papers. That is when she made the mistake of her career. After talk-show host Rodger Hedgecock on KOGO played the tape on his highly rated show the race exploded. Ms. Busby spent the last days before the election saying she just misspoke. Republicans spent the last few days before the election seeing to it that the tape was played by other San Diego talk-show hosts, as well as national figures, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.