Francine Busby headshotFrancine Busby was one of the first candidates Blue America ever endorsed. 1,216 members of our community contributed $22,828 to her campaign to succeed Republican bribe taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham in 2006. She took 43% of the vote (to lobbyist Brian Bilbray’s 54%). Two years earlier she had taken on Cunningham himself, winning 36% of the vote and spending $212,406 against Cunningham’s $939,542. What attracted us to Francine’s candidacy in 2006 was her absolute determination to stand up for basic progressive values in a strongly red district. Unlike the 2008 candidate, she didn’t play Republican-lite. At all times she tried persuading independents and moderate Republicans that her solutions were better than those offered by right-wing ideology.

Thursday, Francine announced that she would run against Bilbray again in 2010. I called her yesterday and invited her to come on for a chat at Firedoglake today. Before joining us in the comments section below for a live discussion, let’s do a little quick catch-up on the politics of CA-50. Francine reminded me that when she first ran in 2004 "there was very little Democratic presence in this North County San Diego area. There was a 16% Republican voter registration advantage in this very gerrymandered district. "I ran," she said, "because it was a time when I couldn’t stand to not be active any longer in speaking out against what the Bush Administration was doing; I needed to stand up and do something. We built the nucleus of a network of Democrats and progressives in North County… Now we’re starting this campaign with 500 precinct captains already in place. The differences between 2006 and now are enormous." That’s exactly what I was eager to hear about.

First of all, as a candidate I have a lot more experience in running a campaign and dealing with the media, not to mention the millions of dollars in name recognition I have because of my previous runs. In this district voter registration has shifted, just like it has in the state and across the nation. President Obama won this district, 51-47%. The Republican registration advantage has been cut from 16% to 8.9% and there’s been a steady decline in Republican registration here. Independents are 24% of the registered voters; it’s no longer a Republican-majority district. The voters here do want change and they like Obama’s message that we’re going to work together to solve the problems that people have in their lives and reform health care and education and energy.

If Francine can keep voters in CA-50 focused on that, they will easily draw the conclusion that the congressman they re-elected last year, who swore up and down the district that he’s a "moderate," has been a lockstep obstructionist for everything that has come up this year– against the Stimulus package, against the budget, against equal pay for women, against health care for needy children, against middle class tax cuts, against mortgage relief for responsible homeowners… everything that they elected Obama to do. In the short time he’s been in Congress, Bilbray has already scooped up $235,705 from the financial/insurance/real estate sector, and has the temerity to support their special interests instead of the interests of working families in his district.

Bilbray only has one issue: illegal immigration. That’s all he talks about. If someone brings up war, he talks about illegal immigration; if someone brings up health care, he talks about illegal immigration; if someone brings up education, he talks about illegal immigration… But if all he wants to talk about is illegal immigration and people here want to talk about their mortgages and that there are half a million uninsured people in San Diego County and 37,000 newly unemployed in San Diego County… and if he only wants to talk about illegal immigration, I’ll be talking about health care, unemployment, education, green economy, jobs, and start-ups in this county that are the engine of our economy. He can talk about illegal immigration all he wants.

When I asked Francine how she can confront a divisive hot button issue like Employee Free Choice, she was very clear and seemed to have a better grasp of what the bill is about than some Democratic leaders who have been to the mass media speaking about it. She needs Republican votes but she believes she can get them by proving her positions are better, not by offering watered down Republican positions that have proven detrimental. "Employees," she told me unflinchingly, "have to have the right to organize in a way that makes it easy for them to do it without being intimidated and I think the more they’re organized the better the benefits and the better the pay, the better off everyone is going to be. I just saw a report reiterating that the gap between the wealthiest one percent and the rest of us has been steadily increasing."