San Diego Rep. Peters faces Republican DeBello in race for District 52

Rep. Scott Peters, Jim DeBello are running for California's 52nd congressional district seat.
Incumbent Rep. Scott Peters and Jim DeBello are running for Congress in California’s 52nd congressional district.
(Howard Lipin and Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Rep. Scott Peters is facing a high-tech challenger critical of his record as he vies for his sixth two-year term representing Congressional District 52.

Republican challenger Jim DeBello, a 62-year-old Point Loma resident, is a newcomer to politics but well-known in the community, especially for his work in technology.

A lifelong San Diego resident, he is best known as the co-inventor of a mobile check-deposit app used by 80 million consumers and was chairman and CEO of Mitek Systems for 15 years. He also holds five patents and led Qualcomm’s internet software business unit.

Democratic incumbent Peters, an attorney and 62-year-old La Jolla resident, is a familiar face in local politics after serving on the San Diego City Council from 2000 to 2008 and on the Port Commission from 2009-2012.

Peters was elected to Congress in 2013 and last won re-election to the seat in 2018 over challenger Omar Qudrat with about 64 percent of the votes.

The Cook Political Report does not consider this year’s race competitive, and Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, which includes Carmel Valley, La Jolla, Point Loma, downtown San Diego, Poway and Coronado.

DeBello earned 32.4 percent votes in the March primary, beating Democrat Nancy Casady and independent candidate Ryan Cunningham to face Peters on Nov. 3.

In an email to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Peters wrote that defeating COVID-19 and rebuilding the economy are the most important issues facing the country.

“To beat the virus, we must trust science and follow the lead of our public health experts, because we cannot fully recover economically until we have a safe vaccine and we get the virus under control,” he wrote.

Peters also said he supports helping the economy with such steps as automatic stabilizers, which adjust tax rates and transfer payments such as welfare and Social Security.

He also called climate change the most pressing existential crisis of our time and wrote that the country must decarbonize its economic sectors, regulate damaging short-lived climate pollutants, invest in technological innovation for new fuels and develop carbon-capture technologies.

Peters wrote social justice also is an important issue this year and noted that he is an original co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act.

“But social justice reform goes beyond police reform,” he wrote. “These inequities have been laid even more bare by COVID which has disproportionately hurt communities of color who have less access to health care and make up more of our essential, frontline work force and not able to work from home and protect themselves. All of those things leave communities of color particularly susceptible to COVID’s worst effects.”

Among his endorsements, Peters said his support from Planned Parenthood is particularly meaningful this year because this election could affect women’s rights to choose. He also noted that he is one of only a few candidates endorsed by national and regional chambers of commerce and national labor and environmental organizations.

DeBello couldn’t be reached for comment, but in a recent interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune DeBello said COVID-19 and the economy were also his top issues, and he said he has a record for creating high-paying jobs.

“We need businesses and schools to be both open and safe for our families,” he said. “These goals are not mutually exclusive.”

DeBello said he supports measures that ensure clean air and clear water but saw some proposed solutions as too extreme.

“Environmental alarmism delivers headlines, not solutions,” he said. “Many proposals like the Green New Deal and others supported by my opponent are unrealistic and economically disastrous. Rather than playing the politics of climate, I am focused on practical, common sense solutions that reverse human impact. These include carbon-capture technologies, bluetech biofuels and other market driven incentives.”

DeBello said he would work to address what he called a broken immigration system.

“As your congressman, I will work to enact sensible immigration and asylum policies that end the gaming of our laws,” he said, adding that he would increase H-1B visas to attract technical talent and would increase border security by using technology and what he called meaningful barriers to stop illegal crossings.

    DeBello’s endorsements include former state Sen. Steve Peace and “Now Hear Me Out” podcast host Harriet Berholtz, both Democrats, as well as former California Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican.
    — Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune