Brian Bilbray, Republican candidate for the 52nd congressional district on the November 6 ballot, was a no-show at a scheduled forum hosted by the Ocean Beach Town Council on October 24.
With Bilbray absent, Scott Peters, the Democratic contender, got the first, last, and only word on Medicare, immigration reform, and other issues that have dominated campaign advertising in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country.
“Nice getting all the time to myself,” said Peters, who touted his recent endorsement by former president Bill Clinton. Then Peters gave his stump speech and fielded questions from an audience of about four dozen during his unexpected solo act.
Members of the Ocean Beach Town Council board of directors expressed bewilderment at Bilbray's nonattendance. President Dave Martin said Bilbray had confirmed his RSVP and, right up to the time of the meeting, gave no indication he was running late or needed to cancel.
The town council had touted the forum three times on its Facebook page in the days leading up to it. Two days prior, the group also issued a “Civic Alert” in an online newsletter to promote the event. According to the newsletter, each candidate was to receive five minutes for an opening statement, followed by questions from the public.
“This is the best way to get quality time with the two potential people who will be representing you and all Obceans!” the newsletter enthused.
Bilbray has been silent about his absence. Early this week, there was no response to two voicemails left at his campaign headquarters, nor to separate emails sent to Bilbray and to his campaign manager. No mention of the forum or reason for going AWOL appears on Bilbray's website, his Facebook page, or his two Twitter accounts.
“He [Bilbray] had the opportunity to address us. So, tough,” Martin said at the end of the forum. “It's his loss.”