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Looks like Francine Busby hit a sore spot when she challenged Rep. Brian Bilbray to at least six debates before voters in California’s 50th Congressional District head to the polls on Nov. 7.

Here’s how the North County Times captured the congressman’s response:

Apparently alluding to their differences on immigration, Bilbray on Thursday said sarcastically that he would do his best to see that Busby gets “face time with me, as long as she agrees the debates can be done in English.”

While Bilbray’s quip seems to presume that Busby, who only requested English language debates, is interested in something else, Busby seems to have made a presumption of her own based on Bilbray’s lukewarm committal.

Her campaign issued this statement last night:

I accept the incumbent Brian Bilbray’s confirmation that he will debate me at least 6 times in public forums. I’m sorry that he has already resorted to negative, personal attacks.

Although Busby is now pushing for multiple face-offs against Bilbray, she didn’t take advantage of an opportunity offered up last month by the University Club, a private downtown social club.

John Dadian, a Republican lobbyist who helps corral talent for the club’s regular distinguished speakers series, said that in June he invited both Busby and Bilbray to participate in an Aug. 11 debate. He said the Busby campaign initially declined the invitation but changed their minds at the last minute, which was too late to participate.

Ray Drew, Busby’s campaign manager, said Busby never declined but, by the time the campaign called to confirm Busby’s appearance, the format of the event had changed to feature only Bilbray.

“Though we never declined the above event, we were concerned because the University Club was being organized by a prominent Republican consultant, was outside the District, and it didn’t appear (though they didn’t confirm because of the changed format) to be an event that was open to the public,” Drew wrote in an e-mail message.

In the end, Bilbray had a room full of approximately 100 downtown business leaders and media all to himself, Dadian said.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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