Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mud in the Water - CA-50

Today's North County Times takes a look at what might be the beginning of a nasty turn in the crowded race for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's vacated seat in the CA-50.

"For the last few months, Republican political consultants, campaign managers and others have been predicting the 50th Congressional District race to replace former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham would turn into a mudslinging free-for-all.

It appears the pundits may have been right.

In recent days, two so-called hit pieces ---- campaign fliers or e-mails that portray a candidate in the worst possible light and often contain half-truths ---- have surfaced. One was an e-mail containing a memorandum that cast former Congressman and Republican candidate Brian Bilbray as a liberal with questionable ethics.

Another scathing piece attacked congressional candidate and state Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, as an alleged supporter of embryonic stem cell research. Morrow vigorously denies that allegation. Many conservatives strongly oppose the scientific research, saying it supports abortion. Defenders say it holds the promise of an eventual cure to many diseases, including Alzheimer's."

It's hard to keep track of all the Republican candidates in the CA-50 race. Last week, there were 11, 12 if you count, Chris Young, who claims to be a Democrat, but who has the same political platform as her neighbor, Bill Morrow.

Are any of the Republican candidates behind these hit pieces? Assuming that no candidate receives a simple majority (50% +1) in the April primary, then only one Republican will go forward to run against Democrat Francine Busby in the June run-off elections. So, it would seem that the critical thing that members of the crowded Republican field can do to get to a potential run-off would be to knock down the front-runners in their own party first. Certainly, one of the Republican front-runners, Brian Bilbray thinks that he is taking fire from his own side.

"This is a calculated dirty-tricks campaign against me," Bilbray said last week.

Bilbray, who served in Congress from 1996 to 2000, said he believes the anonymous e-mail was sent to the newspaper by a Republican, not a Democrat.

'The one way to attack without being blamed for it is to do it anonymously through the Internet. I am used to the Democratic machine doing so, but it's sad to see Republicans doing the same stuff,' he said."

Bilbray and Morrow are the Republican front runners. They are being attacked for not being conservative enough. Most of the other Republicans in the race are moderates. What do they gain by portraying the front runners as being more like them? The only Republican candidates who stand to gain by painting Bilbray and Morrow as liberals are those less know individuals to the right of Bilbray and Morrow. Actually the number on the far right of Morrow and Bilbray is just one, Howard Kaloogian.

Hard to imagine that the guy behind Move American Forward, an astroturf organization that is out to get the UN out of the US and which routinely attacks free speech as treason, would use his right wing connections to go after his main rivals.

In fairness to little Howard, it could also be Bilbray and Morrow supporters beating up on each other. For Kaloogian, the result is the same. His wingnut credentials are unassailable.