Unlike the kabuki theatre of CT, this is a real challenge for Democrats. Yes, Republicans enjoy a registration advantage in the 50th, but not as much as before, and they have not had a majority of voters turn out for an election in years. This is a question of Democratic mobilization.
Formerly the sacrificial lamb offered up by Democrats to the politically untouchable Cunningham, Busby, Cardiff school board member and political novice, managed to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote in July. It wasn't enough for a win, but she argues that it still wasn't insignificant in a district forever written off as red.
Despite the registration disadvantage, Busby managed to raise her final vote tally by nearly 10 points from her 2004 race against Cunningham, something she thinks has helped transform the 50th from a ruby red "safe Republican" seat to one that's bubble gum pink and only "likely Republican" according to The New York Times' analysis of the November elections.
Add to that a survey conducted by National Public Radio that ranks the 50th among the top 50 most competitive districts in the nation and you have the reason for Busby's optimism. For her, it's all evidence that the past two years that she's spent campaigning are paying off....
In the wake of Cunningham's demise, Busby ran on a government reform platform but, like many Democrats across the nation, is changing her message. The "culture of corruption" message has morphed into one of a "culture of destruction," which focuses on the record of President Bush and the Republican controlled Congress.
"We have got to reform Congress, we have to restore ethics, we have to break the cycle -- the bond between lobbyists and the members of Congress," Busby said. "But rather than talking about that, I'll be talking about the failed policies that are the result of that."
As examples, Busby points to increasing energy costs, global warming, the need for renewable energy, the rising costs of healthcare and the Bush administration's education policy, No Child Left Behind.
"These are all issues that nobody sees anybody addressing on a level that really makes sense to them," she said. "They're not seeing government in Washington working in their best interests and they are feeling the effects of that now."
Francine is a real progressive, involved in her district (hell, unlike Bilbray, she actually lives there!) , and is a loyal party campaigner. She understands that thinking green is about sustainable growth and a healthy environment for citizens. She rejects knee-jerk xenophobia rampant in the region while her opponent, Brian Bilbray (R - Lobbyist) is organizing his entire campaign around "Kick the dirty wetbacks out! (But make sure they finish mowing the lawn first...)" She supports real science education that is vital for developing local talent for San Diego's high tech and bio tech industries. Instead of scare-tactics and ducking responsibility, Francine stands for being an adult and meeting real-world issues head on, with compassion and realism.
All that has to happen is a bigger turnout of pro-Busby voters than last time. She has increased turn out both times she has campaigned (bigger than the previous Democrat when she ran against Cunningham, then a big ten point gain in June in the special election). She can spend the time going door to door in her district this time around, and she will.
This is the kind of race that deserves more attention and money. This is the kind of race that used to get attention from "liberal" blogs. This is the kind of candidate the "netroots" claims it wants to see - but the leading lights spend their time throwing money and time at the Lamont campaign (a losing proposition of their own creation) and ignore the small quixotic runs that could actually change the balance of power.
I'm not in Francine Busby's district, but I sent her $100 and I'll be promoting her from now through November. She's a solid progressive Democrat whose election can help secure a Democratic majority.