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Democrat Faces Uphill Battle in Crimson San Diego-Area District

A millennial two-time congressional candidate seeking to flip one of the last conservative strongholds in California faces an uphill battle Tuesday as voters turned out in rural District 50.

(CN) — A millennial two-time congressional candidate seeking to flip one of the last conservative strongholds in California faces an uphill battle Tuesday as voters turned out in rural District 50.

Ammar Campa-Najjar seeks an upset in District 50, which has been without a representative for nearly a year after former Congressman Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison for campaign-finance fraud.

Campa-Najjar has been campaigning in District 50 since the day after he lost by 3 points to Hunter in 2018.

While he hopes to flip the seat blue this time around, he faces another legacy legislator who represented nearby District 49 for years — former Republican Representative Darrell Issa.

In the unincorporated community of Crest in District 50, voters said they want the district to continue to be represented by a conservative congressman.

Donna Ferland said she voted for Issa because she doesn’t trust Campa-Najjar whose campaign was supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Ammar is a very good talker and he has a lot of charisma, but I can’t stand Nancy Pelosi,” Ferland said.

Ferland said Issa wasn’t her first choice, and she thinks Hunter “got railroaded” when he was indicted in the campaign-finance-fraud investigation.

Rosemari Thrasher said, while she didn’t want to have an “uneasy feeling” about Campa-Najjar, she did due his “family’s history.” Campa-Najjar’s deceased grandfather was involved in the deadly terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.

“I realize he’s not his family, but that’s my concern,” Thrasher said.

Erin, a college professor from Santee who declined to give her last name, said racism in her East County community the past couple years is making her seriously consider moving west to San Diego. She’s lived in Santee for 30 years.

“People are used to older Caucasian men in charge, and it’s changing, and some people don’t like that,” Erin said.

She and her boyfriend, who is Mexican American, went grocery shopping ahead of Election Day and have decided not to go to any stores this week to avoid potential protests or altercations following election results.

Erin said her boyfriend has been harassed this year and told to “go back to Mexico” even though he was born in the U.S. and is a college professor. She said she was also harassed while campaigning for local community college board candidate Elena Adams by people who saw her blue sign and said “F-you, Democrat.”

She said she voted for Campa-Najjar because she is “frustrated” by Republican representatives in her district, and “it really bothers me” that Issa does not live in District 50.

“I want someone who drives on the [Interstate] 52, sits in the traffic and knows where the potholes are,” Erin said.

Erin said she was laid off from her teaching job at Grossmont Community College after almost four years due to low enrollment in 2020 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. She said she has been on unemployment and knows teachers who have received emergency assistance through their union and are using the food bank to make ends meet.

A Dump Trump sign lines a rural two-lane road in the unincorporated community of Crest in District 50. (Courthouse News photo / Bianca Bruno)

Further north in the Los Angeles County city of Pasadena, voters talked about consequential propositions they’re being asked to decide, including whether gig economy drivers for Uber, Lyft and DoorDash should be exempted under California’s historic employment law AB 5 and whether there should be split roll property taxes for homeowners and commercial landowners.

Community outreach worker Julianna Serrano, 41, dropped off her mother’s ballot at the All Saint’s Episcopalian Church. She said she voted in favor of Proposition 15, which if passed would increase commercial landowner’s property taxes, because nearby Disneyland “has the means to pay” more than the 1970s rates they’re currently footing.

“Asking them to do it is only fair,” Serrano said.

Graduate student Aeva Murtaugh said they voted “yes” on Proposition 22 in favor of exempting gig-economy drivers from being classified as employees.

“I DoorDash. I know a lot of ‘DoorDashers.’ I like to DoorDash when I want to and I want to go when I can,” Murtaugh said.

Fitness instructor Lisa Zeigel said she thinks many gig drivers are working full-time and need worker protections. She voted “No” on exempting them from being classified as employees under AB 5.

“It’s a job where a lot of people work full-time. Uber may be taking advantage of them. It’s not OK,” Zeigel said.

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