Francine Busby and Tracy Emblem have a little over two months to distinguish themselves from each other to the average Democratic voter in the 50th Congressional District.
But it won’t be easy.
To the average left voter, they’re both Democrats, they both supported major bills like the health care package and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and they both believe Rep. Brian Bilbray is no longer in touch with the 50th Congressional District.
So why vote Busby over her primary opponent Emblem or vice versa?
Busby said she has the community leadership that Emblem lacks. While Emblem, in an email, listed points as to why she’s different — for one thing, she’s an attorney and understands the American government system better than Busby.
But to other local Democratic leaders, it will take more than an impressive resume to oust Bilbray.
“Toppling a congressional incumbent really takes a combination of three things: raising a ton of money, expanding the electorate by mobilizing voters that wouldn’t otherwise show up to the polls, and striking a chord with the independent voters that increasingly serve as the margin of victory,” said Jason Everitt, candidate for Escondido City Council.
Everitt said whoever will win the primary will strategically complete all three tasks.
“Francine and Tracy are running two very different campaigns, with each candidate focusing on one or two of these things in advance of the primary,” he said. “Whoever is left standing after June will have to put all the pieces together if they expect to beat Brian Bilbray.”
Dave Roberts — a former contender for the congressional seat, who was the favorite of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee –said he is staying “non-committed” in either choosing Busby or Emblem but noted the differences between the two.
Roberts said though Emblem has never held a public position, as her counterpart has, she is garnering much support from labor organizations. He’s right — Emblem has the support of 14 labor unions.
“Tracy has never held an elected office, and she seems to be more popular now for those looking for someone different on the political spectrum,” he said. “She also has support among union workers and that’s something we really haven’t seen in this congressional district before.”
But Busby, who ran against Bilbray twice in a special election and in the 2006 general election, has the name recognition and has received much support from local Democrats.
“Francine is connected to the Democratic leadership and knows what it takes to see compromise,” he said.
Additionally, Democrats held their Region 20 pre-endorsement conference last Saturday with delegates recommending that the California Democratic Party endorse Busby.
Though Escondido Democratic Club President Paul McNamara said this is just one step of a layered endorsement process, Busby may be the favorite to the majority of Democrats.
“The pre-endorsement victory for Francine demonstrates that, in the party¹s eyes, she is the most viable candidate,” he said.
McNamara said Busby has been able to present herself as more of a moderate, which may result in a Democratic endorsement.
“Francine has reached out more aggressively to inland voters and, in particular, our club,” he said. “If you can picture the 50th District in your mind, the coast is blue and when you get more inland, it starts turning red… so Francine has positioned herself as more of a moderate and can appeal to independent voters.”
As Busby courts the moderates, McNamara said, Emblem is pushing herself to the left.
“I think Tracy has positioned herself as the more progressive liberal,” he said. “If you look at her strategy, she’s a bit more aggressive; this may bring out the Democratic base but she needs to reach out to Independent voters.”
Busby has raised “well over” $300,000, according to her press secretary, with Emblem raising approximately $130,000. But Emblem said she isn’t concerned because her campaign has grown “accustomed to doing so much with so little.”
McNamara, like Everitt, believes more money is needed to oust Bilbray after Busby and Emblem battle each other and one is eliminated.
“From what I’ve seen, neither Tracy nor Francine has raised as much money as Bilbray,” he said. “Bilbray hasn’t raised a heck of a lot of money for an incumbent but he still has more than both.”
McNamara is right — Bilbray’s campaign has raised $683,000.