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A strong-looking field of candidates vying for California’s 52nd Congressional District seat faced off at a hour-long forum Tuesday at the Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, the North County Times is reporting. Incumbent Brian Bilbray of the old 50th district is facing challenges on the left from former state Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña and San Diego Unified Port District chair Scott Peters, as well as on the right from John Stahl, who has accused Republicans of “circling the wagons around weak incumbents,” such as Bilbray.

“I though Stahl did an excellent job,” Wes Nelson, a registered independent voter, told the Times. “I didn't know much about him before today, but his answers were impressive.”

At the forum, Stahl vowed that he would move to cut congressional pay, reduce the size of his office staff, and said he would refuse to take a congressional pension.

Peters and Bilbray both stressed their ability to work with legislators across the aisle. “Let’s get the right person, and stop worrying about party,” offered Peters.

A new state law decrees that the top two primary vote-getters, regardless of party, will face one another in a November runoff, potentially opening the door for a race between two Democrats (who have declined to endorse a candidate) or two Republicans (the party has given its official backing to Bilbray).

“We are transitioning from a decade of war and combat to a new era where we need to reinvest in the home front,” said Saldaña, referencing her past support for veterans and military families while calling for increased spending on education and green technology.

A third Republican candidate, Wayne Iverson, was not present because the Conservative Order of Good Government, the forum’s sponsor, was not aware of his candidacy, according to Marty Judge.

The San Diego U-T, for its part, said there “wasn’t a lot of news to report” concerning the event. “Unfortunately, no violence, no pithy comments, outrageous jokes or gaffes,” reported Judge to U-T columnist Tom Blair. It was noted, however, that Saldaña posted a photo of the 52nd District candidates to Facebook . . . with Peters cropped out.

Pictured: Bilbray, Saldaña, Stahl

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