SAN DIEGO (AP) — Republican Darrell Issa, once the richest member of Congress, retired in 2018 before Democrats flipped his district along with six other California House seats. Now he’s trying to resurrect his political career in the neighboring district — one of Southern California’s last conservative strongholds.
The San Diego-area 50th District lost its representative when Republican Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to a corruption charge and quit earlier this year. Hunter was under indictment in 2018 when he won a close race against a political newcomer.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar now is trying again against Issa, an ally of President Donald Trump who spent 18 years in the House. The former Obama administration public affairs officer has tacked to the right this time.
To show he will represent all constituents, Campa-Najjar did an interview this month with the founder of a right-wing group formed after violence erupted last spring at a San Diego-area protest against police brutality. Campa-Najjar stunned Democrats when he said he’d yet to decide whether he’d vote for Joe Biden.
Campa-Najjar was forced to do damage control, saying he meant to convey that any presidential candidate must earn his vote. He then voted early and provided a photo showing his ballot was marked for Biden.
Campa-Najjar has shown well enough in polls that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included him among 33 candidates targeted for help to flip districts.
Political analysts see the seat as likely staying in GOP hands but there are encouraging signs for Democrats. The district’s Republican voter registration edge that helped Trump carry it by 15 points in 2016 has dropped by 30%.
Issa’s campaign leads Campa-Najjar in overall contributions with $6.5 million but that includes $2.6 million in direct contributions from the car alarm magnate. An additional $4.2 million has come from his personal loans.
Campa-Najjar, who has a small consulting firm, has given no money to his campaign that has raised $4.8 million overall, according to the third-quarter report from the Federal Election Commission, covering up to Sept. 30.
Campa-Najjar has outpaced Issa in individual contributions, garnering $4.6 million — $1 million more than his opponent.
But Issa’s campaign has spent $9.8 million on the race overshadowing Campa-Najjar’s $3.5 million. Each candidate has $1.2 million in cash on hand.
Home to many military veterans, the district includes San Diego suburbs and farming communities and part of Riverside County. For almost 40 years, a Hunter represented the area — Duncan Hunter Sr. served 28 years and was followed by his son, a combat Marine who held the seat for 11 years.
Hunter Sr., still widely revered in the district, endorsed Issa as did Trump who called Campa-Najjar part of the “Radical Left” in a tweet.
Campa-Najjar has touted his Christian faith and gun ownership to appeal to conservative voters. He’s noted his roots in the district and labeled Issa a carpetbagger. Issa owns a home in the district and lived there with his 88-year-old mother when he entered the race, then moved out when the coronavirus pandemic hit to protect her.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, the region’s biggest newspaper, has endorsed Campa-Najjar.
Limited by the pandemic, both candidates to reach voters did in-person, online interviews with Justin Haskins, founder o... (Read more)
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