Mr. Peters Goes to Washington To Learn House Ropes Early

More votes are yet to be counted before San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters can call himself "Congressman."

But to get a head start on learning the ropes, Peters has traveled to Washington D.C. -- where San Diego County's current delegation on Capitol Hill also has gathered, to resume the work of the House of Representatives.

If his lead over his rival -- Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-50th District) -- in the Registrar of Voters’ post-election counting process isn’t overcome, Peters would achieve a couple of historic milestones in local partisan politics.

Tuesday, in a telephone interview with NBC 7 San Diego, Peters spoke broadly about how he foresees the next term in the House unfolding.

"I think one of the lessons of the election is there is generally a rejection of extremism; the people here in Washington got that message,” Peters said. “I think you've got a good prospect for maybe making progress on 'the fiscal cliff'. And then you've got things like immigration and climate and whatever problems we have to face."

If he proves the winner in the newly drawn 52nd District, it appears Peters would become the first Democrat to represent North County constituents in Congress since 1952 – and give Democrats their first-ever majority on the county's Congressional delegation, by a 3-2 margin.

Peters’ backers say the moderate Democrat is well-suited to a new 'swing district' where Republicans barely outnumber Democrats, and non-partisans comprise one in four voters.

He's served on the California Coastal Commission as well as the San Diego Port Commission, and on the San Diego City Council for two terms, finishing as council president.

His local party leaders say Peters has shown a willingness to seek compromises with rival political interests -- up to a point.

"Throughout the campaign he assured folks that he would stand up for Medicare and defend Medicare; he would stand up for Social Security and defend Social Security,” says Jess Durfee, chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party. “But he was also committed to reaching a balanced budget as quickly as possible for our country."

While going through Congressional orientation sessions along with the freshmen representatives whose election outcomes were clear, Peters says he’s looking at prioritizing his work for the district.

As example, Peters told NBC 7, "The San Diego economy depends heavily on the federal government for scientific research and for our relationship with the military, particularly the Navy. So if I could be involved in any of those to help San Diego with job creation, I would be pleased to do that. I think the other special need we have in San Diego is taking care of veterans."

Durfee says biotech industry concerns also are high on Peters’ agenda: “ That's an important part of this district. And I think those are interests that he wants to represent.”

Peters was leading Bilbray by about 2,600 votes as of the registrar's latest tally Tuesday evening.

His race was one of 10 Congressional contests whose outcomes were pending, with Republicans holding a 41-seat advantage in the House.

If he wins in the final count, he'd be sworn in January 21.

Otherwise, the seat will go to Bilbray -- now serving out his 3rd term in the 50th District -- for his 4th straight term in Congress, and 7th overall.

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