Democrats Split Endorsements on Congress Hopefuls Saldaña, Peters

Political consultant Chris Crotty said the most moderate pick has the best chance to unseat Rep. Brian Bilbray.

Being a Democrat may be the only thing congressional candidates Lori Saldaña and Scott Peters have in common—at least, if you ask key party members or the hopefuls themselves.

Saldaña and Peters both received local party endorsements and are facing off in the June primary with the hope of unseating Rep. Brian Bilbray in the newly formed 52nd Congressional District, which includes the city of Poway.

Though each thinks they have a better chance of beating the longtime incumbent—the differences seem to be clear.

Saldaña has been described as the liberal, grassroots Democrat while Peters has been described as a middle-of-the-road-type.

And while Saldaña has the endorsement of the Poway Democratic Club, Peters gained the endorsement of Poway Deputy Mayor Jim Cunningham.

“It would make sense that Lori, who has a history of going to these clubs and being involved in that grassroots level, would get the endorsements of the clubs,” said Democratic political consultant Chris Crotty.

“Scott, [on the] other hand, being a moderate Democrat, differs on a number of issues with the liberal activists. He interacts with the folks in the Party Central Committee, but he doesn’t have a concerted effort to reach out to them because he’s busy raising money from the people he knows.”

But the differences are how voters can decide who to support.

Peters said it’s his moderate stance that will give the Democrats the best chance to unseat Bilbray.

“Politically, this district is a third Republican, third Democrat, third Independent. It’s going be decided in the middle and I have the endorsement from a lot of leaders who know me,” he said.

“They think I’ll do a better job and I’m more likely to win. I got some business leaders who are moderates who are supporting me. That’s the kind of support you’re going to need to win because it’s going to be decided from the middle.”

But Saldaña said her left-approach to issues is why she’s the better choice.

“I think I’m a progressive who advances Democratic values and goals. I’m for the things that the Democratic activists want to work hard to achieve and that’s why I’m working so hard,” she said, adding that her gender also may play a role.

“If you look at the last 20 years, the candidates Chris Kehoe, Susan Davis and Francine Busby did stronger against [Bilbray] than any of the men who ran against him. Women make a very clear contrast to voters.”

Saldaña’s liberal views are what earned her the Poway Democratic Club’s endorsement, said club President Mickey Foster.

“They both presented well, but I really do believe the reason why Lori was endorsed [was] because she is considered a grassroots candidate,” said Foster who noted Saldaña earned the support by a 19-5 vote.

“I know that Scott has experience on the [San Diego] City Council and he’s no stranger to San Diego politics but I think Lori will really fight for the basic needs of everyday people. Scott comes off as a little, being too typical with his approach to politics.”

But Peters isn’t deterred by not gaining the endorsement of the Poway Democratic Club and six other local clubs.

“She’s been working for clubs her whole career—some of the clubs, I didn’t get to speak to,” Peters said. “But that’s not the way the race is going to be decided. I think it’s a combination of effectiveness and electability.”

He gained an endorsement from Cunningham, other elected officials and has reached across the aisle to garner support from well-known Republicans such as developer and philanthropist Malin Burnham.

Cunningham did not respond to requests for comment on why he endorsed Peters over Saldaña.

Crotty agreed with Peters.

“I think the candidate that has the best opportunity to beat Bilbray is the candidate that’s a moderate candidate who can raise literally millions of dollars. Looking at both Lori and Scott, Scott has been a moderate his entire career,” Crotty said.

“That’s why he has $300,000 in the bank and Lori only has $80,000.”

Though Peters may be the best candidate against Bilbray in some eyes, Foster said it’s important to know where lawmakers stand.

“Moderate is good I suppose but you’d want to know that the things that are the most important to the people are not being discarded,” he said. “I would be concerned that he [Peters] would only be interested in the position and not the issues.”

Despite the vast differences among the two Democrats, Crotty said votes will be split, forcing a runoff in November. That will likely happen, he said, even though a candidate could be elected after receiving 50 percent and one vote under California's new open primary law.

“I think that as a person who works to get Democrats elected, it’s unfortunate in the primary, we have two people running who will split the vote and basically ensure that Brian will get more votes,” he said. “Hopefully, the Democrats will realize it’s better to have the moderate Democrat than the right-wing wackos in Congress.”

David B Secor January 25, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Lori Saldana is truly a woman of the people, and for the people. Peters is same-old same-old. We have passed the time of politics as usual. The people know it. Saldana knows it. In spite of his money advantage, she will beat Peters in the primary and Bilbray in the general. And both the district and the nation will be better for it.
Matt Corrales January 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Scott Peters is the clear choice for the district. The other two candidates are both extremists, while Scott is the thoughtful pragmatist who will reach across the aisle to get things done in Washington.
Cindy Green January 25, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I will vote for Scott Peters because he is the clear choice. This is not the liberal district anymore this is a more moderate district. We need a moderate that has the ability to raise money to beat Bilbray and the vision to fix what is wrong in Washington by working across the aisle. The goal is to get Bilbray out of congress and get a democrat in. Unfortunately, it takes money to win. Lori can't win only raising $20.00 at a time from the "grassroots". It is going to cost hundreds of thousands to win this race. Peters is the moderate democrat that can beat Bilbray. If you really want Bilbray to win then vote for Lori Saldana.
David B Secor January 26, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Two people both use the words Peters is "the clear choice." It is not whether the district is liberal, moderate, or conservative. It's about whether your representative is for sale to special interests. His contributors prove Peters' vote is for sale. Are we to think these big contributors are just patriots doing the right thing? Please!! Saldana will represent ALL the people, not just the big contributors to her campaign. When you say "Unfortunately, it takes money to win. . ." you are saying that our system which now has auctions instead of elections is fine with you and Peters. If Peters had any class, he would not need to bury Saldana with his special interest payoff money, but with honest and open debate on the issues. Why would the district need a new bought-and-paid-for-politician, when we already have one in Brian Bilbray?
Sally Reed January 27, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Could never vote for Peters.


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