After redistricting, the 51st district now includes Imperial County and most of the South Bay/San Diego district currently represented by Filner. The 51st district is 53 percent Latino.
Whoever wins the March 5 primary will be placed on the Nov. 12 ballot. The winner of that election will represent the 51st district beginning in January 2003.
Imperial County is currently represented by Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine.
Ramirez said he is the perfect candidate to represent the constituents of the 51st district because his morals and values reflect theirs, whether they be Anglo, Filipino or Latino.
"The majority here are conservative. Filner? He's an extreme leftist," he said.
Ramirez said he differs from the incumbent because he is "Strong military, pro-gun, pro-family, pro-woman and pro-life; the constitution stands for all these things. (Filner) is a contrast from everything I believe in."
The 57-year-old father of two and former U.S. Marine Corps band bugler pointed to Filner's voting record as proof of the stark contrast.
Ramirez said Filner has voted against parental consent for minors to receive contraceptives, against restrictions on access to abortion for minors, against a ban on homosexual adoptions in the District of Columbia, against extending legal rights to fetuses killed during the commission of a crime, against banning abortions in military hospitals, and in favor of partial-birth abortion. He received 100 percent ratings from Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and the Human Rights Campaign.
"Sounds all true to me," Filner said Tuesday morning.
Filner added, "I have a very consistent belief that the government should not interfere with reproduction decisions that have to be made by the family. That is a decision left up to a parent, a spouse, a minister or any other adviser."
Regarding Filner's recent vote against the 2002 fiscal year defense authorization bill, Ramirez said, "He voted against the defense budget when we're at war. I vehemently oppose that."
Filner said, "If he wants to have the possibility of the (Naval Air Facility El Centro) close down, that's fine. I was against re-establishing a (base realignment and closure) process. The way Republicans wrote the bill they didn't allow us to amend it. I couldn't even get a vote on that. I favored other parts of the bill but voting against it was the only way I could show my displeasure."
While Ramirez has never run for or held political office, he believes he can do a better job in Congress than Filner because of his background in the binational business world.
The 57-year-old owner of San Diego Auto Mart in Calexico, Ramirez said he has negotiated deals with Mexican businessmen for years.
"I speak the language. I know how to negotiate," he said.
He thinks that experience would allow him to confer with Mexican politicians on issues that affect the border.
The 51st district includes the vast majority of the California/Mexico border.
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.