The co-chair of the Biomedical Research Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives appears to have lost his seat in a hotly contested race in southern California.
The most recent results show Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) trailing Democrat Scott Peters by about 700 votes in the 52nd congressional district in and around San Diego. The tally of 50.2% to 49.8% includes all precincts, but not absentee and provisional ballots. California's Secretary of State does not have to certify the election results until 14 December.
Last month Bilbray, who has had two stints in the House totaling 13 years, was crowned a "champion of science" by the Science Coalition. The advocacy group of 51 universities said it was recognizing his "strong and enduring commitment to funding … basic research."
Bilbray was one of the few Republicans who voted to reauthorize the 2010 America COMPETES Act, which would double funding for the physical sciences at three federal science agencies, and earlier this year he co-signed a letter asking the House Appropriations Committee to boost annual funding for the National Institutes of Health. During the campaign, he aired a commercial that featured his 25-year-old daughter, who has terminal melanoma, praising his bipartisan efforts to seek more federal funding for cancer research. In the tag line, Bilbray declares that he approved this message "because some things are more important than politics." He's also been a huge promoter of renewable energy technologies and co-chairs the Algae Energy Caucus.
Bilbray has not conceded defeat. But earlier today he told local media that, if he is ousted, his biggest worry is finding other Republicans "to take care of things" such as cancer research and clean energy.
The apparent winner is a ports commissioner in San Diego and a former city councilman. A lawyer by training, Peters attacked Bilbray for supporting Republican plans to cut domestic programs and health care, and immigration advocates targeted Bilbray's hard-lined views on immigration reform. On his campaign Web site, Peters pledges to "fight for adequate and consistent funding for scientific research" and laments that "[s]cientific research funding is not keeping pace with inflation, and is even being cut."