By Joe Tash
ContributorFour candidates are vying for the right to represent the 50th Congressional District, which includes the North County coast from Del Mar to Carlsbad, Rancho Santa Fe and inland to San Marcos and Escondido.
The field includes the incumbent, Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray, and three challengers: Democrat Francine Busby, Libertarian Lars Grossmith and Miriam Clark of the Peace & Freedom party.
The candidates offer a wide range of views on such issues as how to improve the economy and create jobs, the proper role of the federal government and the ballooning federal budget deficit.
Following are profiles of the candidates
Bilbray, a former mayor of Imperial Beach and county supervisor, is running for his third term in office after winning a 2006 special election to replace disgraced Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who is serving a prison term for accepting bribes.
Bilbray also served three terms in Congress in the 1990s, representing California’s 49th District. Over the past two years, Bilbray has opposed a number of key initiatives of President Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress, such as the health care reform bill and the federal stimulus package.
“We’ve got to understand the business community is the source of jobs, not government,” Bilbray said. “We should be working with the private sector to create opportunities for the one in 10 San Diegans who need a job.”
Bilbray said he would freeze any further expenditures from the federal stimulus fund passed by Obama and Congress last year, and instead use tax incentives to stimulate private investment. As an example, he said he would waive taxes on an estimated $1 trillion held overseas by U.S. companies, if the money is brought into the country for manufacturing or research and development.
“That’s the kind of stimulus this country needs desperately,” he said.
Bilbray also believes the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush should be extended. “The worst thing we can do right now is start drawing large amounts of money out of the private sector,” he said.
During the campaign, Bilbray has deflected criticism from his challengers and others about a Congressional cigar association he sponsored, which according to media reports have been used by lobbyists to gain improper access to members of Congress and Congressional staff.
However, Bilbray said the group was set up to allow bipartisan dialogue between staff members of Republican and Democratic representatives, and that a review by the House Operations Committee has determined no rules were violated.
“They disclosed everything, they played by the rules,” Bilbray said, decrying what he called personal attacks that have turned Washington politics into “blood sport.”
A member of the Cardiff school board, Busby is making her third run for the 50th District seat, following unsuccessful challenges to Cunningham in 2004 and Bilbray in 2006.
“As a representative I will be working with leaders in this community to maximize the potential to create jobs and opportunity here and economic growth to stimulate the economy in our district,” Busby said. “That should be the number one issue and identity in this district and we are missing that leadership at the federal level.”
If elected, Busby said, she would ensure that her staff was active in both Washington, D.C. and within the district, working with representatives of industry and academia to bring in grants and stimulate economic development which would in turn create jobs.
“We have an absentee representative known more for his cigar group and lobbying in Congress than he is in this district,” said Busby, criticizing Bilbray for such actions as co-sponsoring legislation that would allow retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in school zones. “He doesn’t represent the values of anybody I know in this district.”
While she supports extending the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, she said Congress would have to study the costs and benefits of extending the cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of American, which she said would cost $400 billion.
“We know that is the least effective way to stimulate the economy and we know it’s going to increase the deficit,” she said.
As for the health care reform bill — the bulk of which takes effect in 2014 — Busby said, “It’s very important to keep reforming the health care insurance system so every American has access to care. I want to be part of making it work for people in this district and people in this country.”
A retired juvenile probation officer, Clark said her top issue is ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said when all costs are factored in, the country spends 66 percent of its budget on war. “They’re fighting for oil, they think they’re fighting for freedom,” she said.
Clark favors a single-payer health care system sponsored by the federal government to provide health care for all, and programs such as the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s and 1940s, and the California Conservation Corps, to provide jobs for adults and young people.
“Government can do things that private firms don’t have to do because they’re busy cutting corners,” said Clark. “People have to be involved in government and in unions. They can’t just show up at election time, they have to stay with it.”
Grossmith, the Libertarian candidate, has run for Congress once before, in the 49th Congressional District. He works as finance director for a company that buys cell phone towers, and lives in Oceanside.
Both Republicans and Democrats have become big spenders, Grossmith said, and have grown the federal government far beyond its intended role. If elected, Grossmith said, he would start reining in spending by advocating for the abolishment of the federal departments of education and energy.
“Money comes from California and is sent to Washington, and we try to get it back,” he said. “It needs to stay here.”
The biggest impediments to creating jobs, Grossmith said, are government regulation and taxes. He proposes dramatic cuts in taxes, and the creation of tax free zones, where all the money earned by entrepreneurs is exempt from all taxes. He said other countries have tried such an approach, which has proved “wildly successful.”
“Talk about a stimulus, that would stimulate people,” he said. “We just need to release the American people. The federal government needs to get out of their way.”