Fifth Republican Launches Bid For Embattled Congressman’s Seat

Carl DeMaio, who chaired the campaign to repeal California’s so-called gas tax, has announced he will seek the congressional seat held by fellow Republican Duncan Hunter. Hunter faces trial on campaign-finance fraud charges in September. (Martin Macias Jr/CNS)

SAN DIEGO (CN) – Republican, radio personality and proponent of the failed 2018 effort to repeal California’s gas tax, Carl DeMaio of San Diego, announced Monday he will run for the congressional seat held by a fellow Republican about to go on trial on campaign finance fraud charges.

In a Facebook Live video broadcast Monday morning, DeMaio announced his candidacy bid for District 50, a traditional Republican stronghold in east San Diego County. Rep. Duncan Hunter currently holds the seat, though if he’s convicted at trial beginning in September a special election is possible.

A former San Diego City councilman, DeMaio said he will step back from hosting his afternoon talk radio show on 600 KOGO and his role as chairman of Reform California – a political action committee which fights tax hikes – in order to run his 2020 campaign.

DeMaio kicked off his candidacy by highlighting the “hundreds of thousands” of Californians who “pack their bags and move to other states” every year, claiming those “fleeing California” is a result of the cost of living, rising crime rates, increased homelessness, dirty conditions of public streets and onerous costs to run a business.

DeMaio said those ills served as a warning to the rest of the country; a doomsday example of what can happen across America if it follows California’s “socialist” path.

“I’m here today to warn America about the dangers of socialism. We don’t need to look to Venezuela. We don’t need to look to the Soviet Union. We can look right here. California is drifting toward socialism,” DeMaio said.

“It infringes our freedoms, it raises our cost of living and it leads to deterioration in our quality of life,” he added.

To those “fleeing” the state, DeMaio offered an alternative: “Don’t flee. Stand with me and fight.”

DeMaio touted his role as a “reformer” in his campaign announcement, noting he helped lead the charge to successfully recall Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman last year over his vote supporting the state’s increased gas tax.

DeMaio’s campaign slogan, “Take Back California,” peppered his 11-minute announcement and Q&A, where he also called out the “old guard” of California’s Republican party – including Hunter – suggesting there may be a special election in District 50 in as little as 70 days if Hunter is convicted.

“If we don’t change who the nominee is coming into the 2020 election, I’m worried that Republicans will lose yet another congressional seat. If we want to take back majority in Congress, we have to hold the 50th district,” DeMaio said.

In 2018, Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, lost the race for Hunter’s seat by four points despite the 60-count indictment accusing the congressman and his wife and campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, of misspending $250,000 in campaign donations on personal expenses and family trips.

Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to a single charge for campaign finance fraud in June.

Campa-Najjar is running again to oust Hunter, the only Democrat to announce his candidacy for District 50 in 2020.

DeMaio joins a growing list of Republicans running against incumbent Hunter, including former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and former Navy SEAL Larry Wilske.

Former Rep. Darrell Issa, who did not run for re-election in District 49 last year after facing weekly protests by voters outside his Vista, CA office, is also considering a bid for District 50, according to a report by political website The Hill.

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