PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Republican Mary Bono Mack won another term in Congress on Tuesday after fending off a challenge from a Democratic rival who criticized the five-term incumbent for failing to take part in any debate and for frequently siding with President Bush.
Bono Mack, originally appointed in 1998 to fill the seat occupied by her late husband, Sonny Bono, was leading her Democratic opponent Julie Bornstein, a former state legislator and nonprofit housing executive, by a 58-42 percent margin with about 53 percent of the precincts reporting.
"I'd like to thank Julie Bornstein," Bono Mack told the election-night crowd of Republicans gathered at the Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage. "She was a formidable opponent. She ran a good campaign, and I'm glad that's behind us now.
"Moving forward, I will support and work with Barack Obama when he becomes president in January."
But Bono Mack still expressed some concern about the Democratic leadership.
"But it's my job as a moderate Republican to work with, and be watchful of, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, (Senate leader) Harry Reid and Barack Obama," Mack said.
"The American people have given him (Obama) a huge victory tonight. But we as Republicans still believe in local government, and we believe in the individual. We will regroup and be back, stronger than ever in the next two years, four years and six years," Mack said.
Local, state and national politics
Bono Mack was interrupted numerous times by enthusiastic applause from Republican supporters who only hours earlier had watched a giant-screen TV in silence -- with some tears -- as presidential nominee John McCain conceded the presidential election to Obama.
Bono Mack had been favored in the heavily Republican 45th District -- and she had outpaced Bornstein's fundraising efforts by a 3-to-1 margin, according to campaign filings. But that hadn't stopped the challenger from aggressively seeking to make it a tough contest.
Bornstein spotlighted Mack's refusal to debate or meet her in any public forum over the last several months, noting that the last time the incumbent agreed to a debate was Oct. 13, 2002.
On her campaign Web site, the Democratic candidate also criticizes Mack for being among President Bush's "allies in Congress… (who) dismantled the reasonable and effective regulatory system that had made the U.S. economy the engine of world growth."
Bornstein slammed Mack for voting twice in favor of the $700 billion Wall Street "bailout" bill -- even when the incumbent's constituents were "almost universally opposed to the banking windfall."
Bornstein supporters have noted that in 2006 and 2007, Mack voted 70 percent of the time in favor of Bush administration proposals.
The challenger said that if elected, she would have pushed for a national housing policy that expands the "supply of decent rental housing" and reduces urban sprawl to prevent "global warming."
Bornstein advocated universal health care coverage, reducing the amount of borrowing necessary to finance the national budget and immediately withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Bono Mack, who has been endorsed by both of Riverside County's largest-circulation newspapers, touted her ability to work well on a bipartisan level as a major factor in getting pro-taxpayer legislation passed.
In announcing its support for her, the Desert Sun lauded Bono Mack's success in obtaining federal funds for improvements at Palm Springs International Airport and the Salton Sea restoration project.
The incumbent has been a leading proponent of permanently shelving the alternative minimum tax, which hit millions of taxpayers annually -- many in the middle income brackets -- before it was suspended.
As a member of the House's Energy & Commerce Committee, Mack has supported legislation to curb speculative trading in crude oil futures to get energy prices under control. Earlier this year, she spearheaded legislation to put "country of origin labeling" on meat and produce to give consumers a better idea of where the foods they are eating comes from.
She voted against the failed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prevented judicial extension of marriage rights to gays, but has not taken a public position on California's Proposition 8.