2006 General Special Election – In 2006, California’s 50th Congressional District needed to choose a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the vacancy caused by the 2005 resignation of disgraced Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham.
Nearly 20 candidates jumped into the race amid the scandal, including former Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray. He forced a run-off with Democrat Francine Busby, who had received 44 percent of the vote in the Primary Special Election.
Long-considered a Republican stronghold district, the Cunningham scandal and subsequent sentencing to more than eight years in federal prison just months before the General Special Election cast a cloud over Bilbray’s candidacy.
“THE DCCC FORCED THE NRCC TO PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS AND SPEND A LARGE FORTUNE FOR BILBRAY, BUT GIVEN THE DAM THAT MIGHT HAVE BURST HAD BUSBY WON, IT WAS WORTH EVERY GOP PENNY FOR THEM.” – LARRY SABATO
Polls showed a very close race developing. As a result, both the Democratic Congressional Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee spent millions trying to win the seat.
For the June 2006 election, Competitive Edge Research & Communication (CERC) set up a specialized strategy. Competitive Edge ran an aggressive last-minute GOTV program (3,800 contacts) reminding supporters to vote for Bilbray in the general special election.
The project was a success. Bilbray won the election with 53.2% of the vote. The significance of the victory did not go unnoticed. Political analyst Larry Sabato wrote in his Crystal Ball newsletter: “What a difference four percentage points makes! That was Bilbray’s margin over Busby, a gaffe-prone, lackluster candidate who was out of her league. With six years (1995–2001) under his belt from another California House district, former congressman Bilbray understood what it took to win a tough campaign, and riding the immigration issue, he did so. The DCCC forced the NRCC to pull out all the stops and spend a large fortune for Bilbray, but given the dam that might have burst had Busby won, it was worth every GOP penny for them.”