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California's 52nd Congressional District elections, 2012

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California's 52nd Congressional District

General Election Date
November 6, 2012

Primary Date
June 5, 2012

November 6 Election Winner:
Scott Peters Democratic Party
Incumbent prior to election:
Duncan Hunter Republican Party
Duncan Hunter.jpg

California U.S. House Elections
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2012 U.S. Senate Elections

Flag of California.png
The 52nd congressional district of California held an election for the U.S. House of Representatives on November 6, 2012.
This is the 52nd congressional district prior to the 2010 redistricting.

Challenger Scott Peters (D) defeated incumbent Brian Bilbray (R) in a race that was too close to call for more than one week after polls closed.[1]

Candidate Filing Deadline Primary Election General Election
March 9, 2012
June 5, 2012
November 6, 2012

Primary: California has a top-two primary system, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.

Voter registration: Voters had to register to vote in the primary by May 21. For the general election, the voter registration deadline was October 22.[2]

See also: California elections, 2012

Incumbent: Heading into the election the incumbent was Duncan Hunter (R), who was first elected in 2008.

According to a Cook Political Report analysis, the 52nd district was 1 of 13 congressional districts in California that was at least somewhat competitive in 2012. The analysis rated it as Republican Toss Up.[3]

This was the first election which used new district maps based on 2010 Census data. California's 52nd congressional district is located in the southern portion of the state and includes part of San Diego County.[4]

Blanket primary

This was the first election year in which California's Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act was in effect. Because of this, all candidates for a seat competed in one blanket primary. The two candidates who received the most votes then advanced to the general election on November 6.

The proposition's intent was to encourage primary competition, which backers of the act said would lead to more moderate legislators being elected. Despite this intention, only a few centrists successfully advanced to the general election. The primary results did reflect an increase in competition, with California's percentage of contested primaries being much higher than the nationwide average.[5]

However, the increase in competition also led to an increase in campaign spending, due to the fact that competition within political parties lasted for the entire year rather than ending after the primary. Experts predict that this will only increase the power of the special interest groups that fund the campaigns.[5]

Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., said the following, "It's hard to argue it's a better system where the incumbent congressman has a huge war chest and nobody else has any money... At least now we can make him spend it."[5]

As a result of the blanket primary, nine of California's 53 congressional districts had same-party candidates battling in the November 6 general election. Of those, seven were between Democrats.[6]

There were also over a dozen same-party races in the state legislature in November.[6]


Note: Election results were added on election night as races were called. Vote totals were added after official election results had been certified. For more information about Ballotpedia's election coverage plan, click here. If you find any errors in this list, please email: Geoff Pallay.

General election candidates

Democratic Party Scott Peters Green check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Brian Bilbray

June 5, 2012, primary results

Note: The following candidate withdrew prior to the primary: Bobby Nascenzi[11]

Election Results

General election

U.S. House, California District 52 General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngScott Peters 51.2% 151,451
     Republican Brian Bilbray Incumbent 48.8% 144,459
Total Votes 295,910
Source: California Secretary of State "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"

Race background


California's 52nd was considered to be a Tossup according to the New York Times race ratings. Incumbent Brian Bilbray was challenged by Democrat Scott Peters, in a district that was much less conservative than when he first won in 2006. The seat was a top target for Democrats.[12]

California's 52nd District was included in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red to Blue List," which identified districts that the organization specifically targeted to flip from Republican to Democratic control.[13]

Incumbent Brian Bilbray was a part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Patriot Program, a program to help House Republicans stay on offense and increase their majority in 2012.[14]

Using the Federal Election Commission's October Quarterly campaign finance filings, the Brennan Center for Justice at The New York University School of Law published a report on October 22nd focusing on the 25 House races rated most competitive by The Cook Political Report, including the race for California's 52nd. The report examines the relative spending presence of non-candidate groups, candidates, and small donors in these races - "which will likely determine which party will control the House." [15]

Impact of redistricting

See also: Redistricting in California

The 52nd district was re-drawn after the 2010 Census. The new district is composed of the following percentages of voters of the old congressional districts.[17][18]

Registration statistics

As of October 24, 2012, District 52 had the following partisan registration breakdown according to the California Secretary of State:

California Congressional District 52[19]
Congressional District District Total Democrats Republicans Other & Unaffiliated Advantage Party Advantage Change in Advantage from 2010
District 52 373,152 121,418 132,981 118,753 Republican 9.52% -28.90%
"Party advantage" is the percentage gap between the two major parties in registered voters. "Change in advantage" is the spread in difference of party advantage between 2010 and 2012 based on the congressional district number only.

District partisanship

FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012 study

See also: FairVote's Monopoly Politics 2012

In 2012, FairVote did a study on partisanship in the congressional districts, giving each a percentage ranking (D/R) based on the new 2012 maps and comparing that to the old 2010 maps. California's 52nd District became more Democratic because of redistricting.[20]

  • 2012: 53D / 47R
  • 2010: 48D / 52R

Cook Political Report's PVI

See also: Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index

In 2012, Cook Political Report released its updated figures on the Partisan Voter Index, which measures each congressional district's partisanship relative to the rest of the country. California's 52nd congressional district has a PVI of D+1, which is the 181st most Democratic district in the country. In 2008, this district was won by Barack Obama (D), 56-44 percent over John McCain (R). In 2004, George W. Bush (R) won the district 51-49 percent over John Kerry (D).[21]

Campaign contributions

Candidates for Congress were required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2012 elections season. Below are candidate reports.

Scott Peters

Scott Peters (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[22]April 15, 2012$231,915.55$191,579.51$(172,465.72)$251,029.34
Pre-Primary [23]May 24, 2012$251,029.34$1,314,405$(1,195,041.27)$370,393.07
Running totals

Brian Bilbray

Brian Bilbray (2012) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[24]April 15, 2012$561,691.96$376,707.06$(151,089.37)$787,309.65
Pre-Primary [25]May 24, 2012$802,634.45$95,739.76$(112,194.96)$786,179.25
Running totals

Chamber of commerce spending

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent a total of $3.3 million on television advertisements aimed at electing ten California Republican congressional candidates, Democratic sources told Hotline.[26]

In California's 52nd congressional district, The Chamber spent $334,000 to elect Brian Bilbray.[26]

District history


On November 2, 2010, Duncan Hunter won re-election to the United States House. He defeated Ray Lutz and Michael Benoit in the general election.[27]

U.S. House, California District 52 General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngDuncan Hunter Incumbent 63.1% 139,460
     Democratic Ray Lutz 32.1% 70,870
     Libertarian Michael Benoit 4.9% 10,732
Total Votes 221,062

See also

External links


  1. Post Bulletin "GOP Rep. Bilbray loses re-election bid in California" November 16, 2012
  2. California Secretary of State "Elections FAQ," Accessed July 20, 2012
  3. The Cook Political Report 2012 Competitive House Race Chart
  4. California Redistricting Map "Map" Accessed September 25, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Los Angeles Times, "Few centrists advance in California's new primary system," June 7, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 Reuters, "Democrats face Democrats in new California election system," June 6, 2012
  7. "Peters announces run for Congress",, October 17, 2011
  8. "Saldaña to run for Congress",, August 13, 2011
  9. "REGION: Bilbray has big cash lead in campaign financing",, October 18, 2011
  10. "Political Bits and Pieces",, June 10, 2011
  11. "REGION: All signs point to tough re-election bid for Bilbray",, August 10, 2011
  12. New York Times "House Race Ratings," Accessed August 7, 2012
  13. DCCC, "Red to Blue 2012"
  14. NRCC "Patriot Program 2012"
  15. Brennan Center for Justice, "Election Spending 2012: 25 Toss-Up House Races," October 22, 2012
  16. The Cook Political Report, "House: Race Ratings", updated October 18, 2012
  17. Moonshadow Mobile's CensusViewer "California's congressional districts 2001-2011 comparison"
  18. Labels & Lists "VoterMapping software voter counts"
  19. California Secretary of State, "Congressional Voter Registration Statistics," May 21, 2012
  20. "2011 Redistricting and 2012 Elections in California," September 2012
  21. Cook Political Report "Partisan Voting Index Districts of the 113th Congress: 2004 & 2008" Accessed October 2012
  22. Federal Election Commission "Scott Peters April Quarterly," Accessed July 10, 2012
  23. Federal Election Commission "Scott Peters Pre-Primary," Accessed July 10, 2012
  24. Federal Election Commission "Brian Bilbray April Quarterly," Accessed July 10, 2012
  25. Federal Election Commission "Brian Bilbray Pre-Primary," Accessed July 10, 2012
  26. 26.0 26.1 National Journal, "Chamber Drops $3.3 Million for California Repubs," September 27, 2012
  27. U.S. Congress House Clerk "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 2010"