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Our Opinion: Fond farewell

September 17, 2001

After 20-plus years of being represented by a conservative Republican, Imperial County likely will soon be represented in Congress by a Democrat, possibly a liberal Democrat.

It will be hard to say good-bye to Duncan Hunter, our longtime congressman. Hunter is a rare man — a veteran and powerful congressmen without a bone of pretense. Like his policies or not, the Alpine-based Hunter is a likable fellow who did some good work for the Imperial Valley over the years. We agreed with much of what he did and didn't like some of what he did, but we always liked him as a person.

Hunter's work on keeping our Navy base open has been consistent and vehement and he has dedicated himself to countless other Valley issues over the years, producing tangible results.

That said, we think he has come down on the wrong side of some border issues in recent years and we have ominous feelings about his pending Salton Sea legislation.

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Hunter's new district will be even more Republican, which is a good thing, because it is important in these dangerous times to have a steadfast patriot with deep military knowledge such as Duncan Hunter in Congress.

There is a good possibility our next congressman will be San Diego-based Bob Filner, Hunter's sometimes liberal foil in the San Diego congressional delegation in recent years. Filner and Hunter have tangled on issues including the reopening of the "border train." Frankly, we think Filner was right that such a train could greatly help commerce in Imperial and San Diego counties, despite Hunter's concerns about border security.

Filner, a former San Diego State University professor first elected to Congress in 1992, has long represented majority-Hispanic issues, so he is knowledgeable of concerns of areas with demographics such as ours. And his work on border issues is important because he would be representing all border areas in both Imperial and San Diego counties if he is re-elected to the 51st district seat.

That is the big if.

Filner asserts that the district was designed by Democrats in the state Legislature to get Juan Vargas, his longtime and bitter Democratic rival, elected to Congress. Vargas, a former city councilman, is now an assemblyman, and Filner insists Vargas and friends constructed a Vargas-friendly congressional seat to which Vargas can elected. Whether that scenario plays out will be determined in the 2002 Democratic congressional primary for the 51st seat, during which Vargas and Filner will likely tear each other to shreds.

Whether Filner of the more conservative Vargas is elected, it will be a change from Duncan Hunter, a good man we will miss.

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