National Republicans scored a major political victory in California’s 50th congressional district when they won a Special Election to fill the vacancy caused by Duke Cunningham’s resignation. Some of the credit for the win is going to the Republican National Committee’s 72-Hour Program, their voter turnout model. An RNC memo says that the program generated over 182,000 direct voter contacts, and since their team arrived in the district, they reversed a Democratic lead in returned absentee ballots by more than 50%. The Director of the RNC 72-Hour Program is a New Jerseyan, Bill Stepien, who not coincidentally made the PoliticsNJ.com Rising Stars list in 2001 and the Best Operatives list in 2003. Stepien, who spent the last two weeks in Southern California, started out in politics as a volunteer on Anthony Bucco’s successful State Senate race in 1997 against incumbent Gordon MacInnes (that’s the last time Republicans ousted a Democratic Senator) and was the Campaign Manager for Bill Baroni’s winning State Assembly race in 2003 against incumbent Gary Guear. He joined the RNC after running the Bush/Cheney field operation in New Hampshire in 2004. Stepien’s boss is another New Jerseyan, Michael DuHaime, who is now the RNC Political Director.