Representative Cunningham resigned on November 28, 2005, as a result of a bribery scandal. An open special election was held on April 11, 2006. The top vote getter was Democrat Francine Busby, who won 44% of the vote. The second-place finisher was Republican Brian Bilbray, who won 15% of the vote. Paul King was the top Libertarian party vote getter, with 0.6% of the vote. Since no candidate received a simple majority, the top vote-getters in each party competed in a runoff or special general election on June 6, 2006 (the same day as the statewide California primary). Bilbray was sworn in on June 13, based on unofficial counts, two weeks before the election was certified. As a consequence of this action, a court challenge to the election results filed by voters was denied on jurisdictional grounds. This decision was appealed unsuccessfully.
Randy "Duke" Cunningham won the Republican nomination and hammered Bates about the scandal. Cunningham won by a point. The San Diego area was represented entirely by Republicans for only the second time since the city was split into three districts after the 1960 U.S. Census. After his victory, Cunningham changed his official residence from his Del Mar home to a condominium in the Mission Valley neighborhood in San Diego, so he could reside in the district that he represented in Congress.[dubious – discuss]
In 1992, Cunningham campaigned against Lowery in Lowery's district in the Republican primary. The new 51st District was more dominated by ethnic whites and was more conservative than Cunningham's more urban, former 41st District located farther south. Lowery was tainted by the House check kiting scandal and lost the primary to Cunningham. The latter, a Navy career officer, had run on a campaign theme of "A Congressman We Can Be Proud Of." After winning, Cunningham changed his official residence back to his Del Mar home in the old 41st/new 51st District.
On November 29, 2005, Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report declared on his show that the 50th Congressional District was "dead" to him after its insufficient support for his "friend" Duke Cunningham. Colbert placed the district on the show's ever-changing "Dead to Me" board, saying that he now considered the number of congressional districts in the United States to be 434. (The number became 433 when he retired the 22nd District of Texas for its insufficient support for Tom DeLay.) On March 1, 2006, he "downgraded" the 50th District's status from "dead to me" to "never existed to me."