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GOP Ad Angers Democrat

April 28, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The runoff election to fill the seat of disgraced ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham has begun with a bang: A GOP television commercial says Democrat Francine Busby is "dangerous" on the issue of teachers possessing child pornography.

Busby, 55, a Cardiff school board member, has called on her Republican opponent, Brian Bilbray, 55, a former congressman, to denounce the commercial and ask the National Republican Congressional Committee to take it off television.

"I think it is deceitful, dishonest and disgusting," Busby said. "It's nothing but character assassination."

Bilbray's spokesman, Steve Danon, said the candidate wants so-called independent committees to stay out of the race.

"Brian has been the victim of a smear job by an independent committee just a month ago," Danon said, a reference to anti-Bilbray campaigning by fellow Republicans in the primary. "He totally opposes these things."

Still, Bilbray has not specifically asked the Republican committee, which coordinates the party's role in U.S. House races, to pull the commercial.

Busby and Bilbray face a June 6 runoff to fill the final months of Cunningham's term. The 64-year-old Republican is at a federal medical facility in Butner, N.C., awaiting placement at a prison for the remainder of his eight-year prison sentence for taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

In the April 11 primary, Busby got 44% of the vote. Bilbray outpaced 13 other Republicans for 15%.

The 50th Congressional District, which includes the northern part of San Diego and the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista and Escondido, tilts heavily Republican.

In the wake of the Cunningham scandal, Busby has tried to make ethics in government her top campaign issue.

Days after the primary, the Republican committee began running a commercial that attacked Busby's record on the school board.

The ad quoted comments that she made about a teacher under investigation for allegedly possessing child pornography.

In a 2004 newspaper article, Busby was quoted as expressing shock that the teacher was being questioned by the FBI. The teacher was fired and later pleaded guilty to destruction of evidence and was sentenced to probation.

Busby's campaign responded with a commercial in which a fellow school board member defends Busby.

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