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April 14, 2009

Busby's back

A familiar name has re-emerged to challenge Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.): Democrat Francine Busby, a women’s studies professor who drew national attention when she challenged him in a recent closely watched special election.

If Busby wins, she would have the rare distinction of losing two times for a House seat only to prevail on a third try. (Former Indiana congressman Mike Sodrel has lost three times to Rep. Baron Hill, but at least he managed to win a term in between.)

Busby lost badly to former (and now-jailed) Rep. Duke Cunningham in 2004, and then came up short against Bilbray in a 2006 special election for the seat. Months later, she lost by an even greater margin to Bilbray in the regularly-scheduled general election.

But Busby cited the Democratic registration gains throughout California (detailed in today’s POLITICO) as a major reason why she’s running for the seat yet again. The suburban San Diego district voted for President Barack Obama with 51 percent of the vote, and Bilbray won the seat last year with only 50 percent against Democrat Nick Leibham.

UPDATE: Our politically-savvy commenters have come up with two good examples of two-time losers who went on to win on their third try.  Most notably, Newt Gingrich lost twice in the 1974 and 1976 elections to conservative Democrat Jack Flynt before winning the seat in 1978 after Flynt's retirement.

And Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) lost twice to former congressman Bill Luther in 1998 and 2000, before defeating him in 2002.

Technically Busby is running for the fourth time since she lost the special election and the general election in 2006.  But who's counting?