Ex-Marine puts GOP on ballot in South Bay democratic stronghold - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Ex-Marine puts GOP on ballot in South Bay democratic stronghold

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Marine pilot who beat out a veteran legislator for a spot on the general election ballot in a South Bay congressional district said Thursday he was not surprised at his good Election Day fortune.

Pundits had figured the November runoff would come down to Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego and ex-Democratic legislator Denise Moreno Ducheny in the 51st District, a stronghold for their party.

But Michael Crimmins, a 64-year-old Republican, collected 21 percent of the vote on Tuesday, seven points better than Moreno Ducheny. Vargas won with 48 percent in the district that covers part of southern San Diego County and all of Imperial County, while four other candidates split the remaining 17 percent.

The victory puts him in his third straight general election for Congress, having lost to Susan Davis, D-San Diego, in 2008 and 2010. He gained 27 percent the first time and 34 percent in the rematch.

The Point Loma resident told City News Service that his sense from "being on the street" and a tip-off about private polling data gave him confidence before the primary election.

He said he hopes his message will resonate with voters, many of them Latinos whom he has dealt with for years as a teacher at various San Diego schools.

"Down along the border, it's all about immigration," Crimmins said.

He wants to strengthen the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico so that we know who is coming into this country but also make it easier for Mexicans to cross by issuing them secure identification cards.

"Post-9/11, we have to know who is coming across that border," Crimmins said.

He also supports making improvements to Friendship Park, a spot along the west end of the border fence where separated families visit with each other. Lights and bathrooms would make the park much easier for people to use, he said.

"That resonates with (the families) and is no skin off our teeth," Crimmins said. He said he would push to build a similar park in Calexico.

The district has been represented by Bob Filner for two decades, but the liberal Democrat is leaving office to run for San Diego mayor. Filner placed a close second in that race on Tuesday to Councilman Carl DeMaio.

He said many of the Spanish-speaking residents of the district are Democrats but have Republican values on issues like gay marriage and abortion.

"They're told they're Democrats by their teachers and their parents -- we're Democrats, so you're Democrats," Crimmins said.

Vargas, who lost a primary run in the district to Filner in 2006, would be a formidable opponent in a district with high Democratic registration, however. Vargas has been a San Diego city councilman and was an assemblyman before moving to the state Senate.

Crimmins, a native New Yorker, said he is divorced and has an adult daughter who is a flight attendant, and he plans to move to Imperial Beach -- within the district -- if he wins the general election.

He said he spent a lot of time in Imperial County during his 21-year career in the Marine Corps, flying to an air base in El Centro and instructing Navy SEALS in the mountains.

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