RANCHO SANTA FE — Decisions, decisions. Rancho Santa Fe voters, a highly educated and well-informed electorate, have headed to the polls to cast their votes for not only our national leaders but our local representatives as well. While all eyes are on politicians and the offices they’re seeking, the votes cast here in the Ranch will affect other lives as well.
In Washington D.C., a few of those keeping their eyes on Rancho Santa Fe voters are staff members for Congressman Brian Bilbray. Although many hail from the San Diego area, Bilbray’s staff members now reside in the Washington, D.C. area and hope to continue serving the 50th Congressional District of California from their East Coast home away from home.
No matter which way the electorate votes, these staff members will be moving. Should incumbent Bilbray be re-elected, staffers will be moving with Bilbray from their Cannon Office suite to a new suite in the Rayburn building, offices reserved for members of Congress with more seniority and clout. Should Bilbray lose his seat to his Democratic challenger, Rancho Santa Fe attorney Nick Leibham, they will be returning back home to San Diego or scrambling amongst the hordes of other unemployed staff members for positions with those newly elected.
“If it’s job security you’re looking for, this is not it,” Steve Danon, chief of staff for Brian Bilbray’s office, said about life as a staff member. With the political wind changing across the country, staff members from many different congressional and cabinet offices are polishing up their resumes and doing what they can to remain employed. “Our office is currently receiving hundreds of resumes,” Danon said. “And these are from people with top-notch credentials: ivy-league schools, attorneys, people who are overqualified, yet scrambling to accept a job that may pay $35,000 a year at best.”
Bilbray, like all congressional representatives, has two offices: one in Washington, D.C. and a local district office in Solana Beach. According to Danon, the casework in the Solana Beach office remains much the same during this current time. Staff members work with constituents regarding veterans’ benefits, social security issues and Medicare concerns. But the Washington, D.C. staff members are currently in a state of limbo. Congress is no longer in session and, depending on the outcome of the election, bills will either be pushed forward, hoping to get President Bush’s last minute approval, or will be put off until the next president is in office.
The past few months have been a wild ride for the staff. “During the financial bailout, the phones rang off the hook,” Senior Staff Advisor Robert Boland said. “We were listening to constituents and 20 to 1 they were against the bailout. And no one was taking more calls than Brian himself. He was on the phone constantly.” Bilbray is on record as voting against both bailout packages, although the second bill passed and was signed into law last month.
“We work hard to never forget who we’re here to represent,” Danon said. It’s why Bilbray has placed two recent San Diego State graduates, Lisa Schaeffer and Jennifer Polk, to greet visitors as they enter the Cannon suite offices in Washington, D.C. “It’s a big trip for people to travel all the way from San Diego to Washington, D.C.,” Danon said. “So it’s important to have a smiling face from San Diego there to greet you, especially for grandparents who are bringing their grandkids to D.C. for the first time or veterans who have travelled across the country to speak to their representative. It’s a common bond.”
So if you think your vote in the recent election didn’t amount to much, think again. Many people felt its affect. Ask any staff person.