News Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

No debate for local Congress candidates

ENCINITAS — While the spotlight is on the top of the ticket in this year’s general election, several candidates and propositions will fill the ballot Nov. 4.
Democratic candidate for the 50th Congressional District Nick Leibham has challenged incumbent Congressman Brian Bilbray to a series of debates, but to no avail.
Leibham’s campaign said Bilbray is avoiding a debate. In a letter dated Aug. 12, Leibham tried again to push the issue of Bilbray’s earlier commitment to participate in a debate.
“Your commitment to hold at least five debates before the general election has, unfortunately, turned out to be nothing more than an empty promise. As many as five local, non-partisan organizations have offered to hold debates. You continue to dodge these invitations,” Leibham wrote.
Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Bilbray’s campaign, said that the congressman needs to be in Washington, D.C., while the House is in session.
The current session ended Oct. 3.
He said that Bilbray is open to television- or radio-based forums.
However, no media outlets have stepped forward to sponsor the debate in a media acceptable to Bilbray.
The conservative district is no easy sell for a Democrat challenging an incumbent Republican.
However, Leibham received early support from the national party. Democrats believe the seat is in play, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeting Bilbray in radio advertisements which aired in July.
Leibham was also added to the committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which targets races it believes will result in a win for Democrats.
The campaign will receive financial, communications and strategic support in the final weeks before the election.
Republican Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby in a special election in June 2006, after longtime representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham resigned amid bribery allegations.
He defeated Busby again by a wider margin in the regular election in November of the same year.
“Not debating your opponent seems a little chicken to me,” Sharon Watson said. The Encinitas resident said she is a registered Independent. “I’m leaning toward Leibham because what I do know about Bilbray doesn’t impress me.”