By Martha Sarabia
After the indictment and sentencing of former U.S. Congressmen Randy “Duke” Cunningham for corruption, the efforts to replace the 50th Congressional District seat have only increased as the time goes by.
Candidates running to fill this vacancy have criticized each other harshly and publicly on TV ads raising questions about their views on different issues and previous work performance.
Due to the importance of this race, community organizations have also stepped in to encourage more eligible Latino voters to exercise their right on June 6.
“The election in the 50th Congressional District is very important because whoever is elected may have the opportunity to vote on the proposed immigration reform bill that is currently being discussed on Capitol Hill. Whoever is elected will have to respond to their constituents when they are voting, so therefore if enough Latinos go out to vote we will be a force to be reckoned with by the congressperson,” said Beatriz Garcia, community organizer of Justice Overcoming Boundaries (JOB).
JOB is made up of community organizations committed to fostering leadership and civic participation in San Diego. Together with the We Are America coalition, they organized the marches in Balboa Park on April 9 and May 1 as well as the May 1 rally and vigil at Grape Park in Escondido.
“We believe that it is time that Latinos made our voice heard through the electoral process as well as the mass mobilizations in March and April,” said Garcia.
For that reason, Garcia and over 25 volunteers are working on what they call the “Get Out Latino Vote Campaign” in the 50th Congressional District that includes Escondido, San Marcos and Carlsbad.
The non-partisan campaign that began on May 5 targets Latinos who are eligible and have registered to vote. Volunteers encourage voters to choose their elected official through phone calls and home visits in addition to airing public service announcements in Spanish-language media outlets with the phrase “We marched yesterday, on June 6 we vote.”
In this month’s election, there are also two statewide propositions, two countywide, and six others around the county. Also, the winner of the 50th Congressional District race will serve for the remaining six months of Cunningham’s term and will represent his or her party in the November election seeking election for a fullterm.
Although the vote campaign does not endorse any particular candidate, voters are encouraged to be informed on how the candidates stand on the issues that are important to them. The final results will be divided between the democrat and the republican candidate.
Democratic Candidate Francine Busby said, “I will be a voice for the Latino community in the 50th District and San Diego… I plan to meet regularly with the Latino leaders of the area to know about the issues affecting the community.”
On immigration, Busby said, “We need a comprehensive approach to immigration. We need an immigration policy that is tough but fair and that is why I support John McCain’s comprehensive immigration reform.”
On the other hand, Republican Candidate Brian Bilbray, who was not able to respond before press time, believes in a tougher immigration reform. Bilbray says on his website, “During my previous service in the House of Representatives I was a leader on illegal immigration reform, introducing H.R. 7, the bill to end birthright citizenship.”
He adds, “If elected to the House again, I will continue to work to build support for that and the other parts of my plan to enact meaningful immigration reform… We cannot wait one day longer to protect ourselves from illegal immigration and in Congress that issue will be my number one priority.”
Although Busby also believes that there needs to be a tougher control of the border with more border security, she also supports a guest worker’s program with requirements such as different background checks. She also said that “we have to remember that immigration isn’t just in the border or in the Latino community,” while referring to other communities with high numbers of undocummented immigrants such as the Asian and European, who enter the country legally but overstay their visits.
Busby also believes that increased spending in health care and education is needed.
Bilbray considers protecting children from predators as one of its main issues and pledges to promote the passage of Jessica’s law and similar legislation in Congress.
Regardless of who is elected this month, the organizers of the Latino voter campaign have already started to plan for the November election. The future campaign will consist of voter registration throughout San Diego County as well as a very organized get-out-the-vote campaign in late October through the November election, in addition to organizing several naturalization fairs in the summer.
“Our message is for Latinos to engage civically into this movement, those who can go out and vote for your values, your beliefs…make our voices heard!,” said Garcia.
For more information about the voter campaign, call (619) 255-6986.