(CN) — A millennial congressional candidate who attempted to turn one of California’s last Republican strongholds blue in 2018 may succeed in November, after a political dynasty ended earlier this year when former Representative Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison for campaign finance fraud.
Ammar Campa-Najjar has been campaigning in District 50 for the Nov. 3 election since the day after he lost to Hunter in 2018.
Even though Campa-Najjar didn’t succeed in “blue-ing” the district like in nearby District 49 — where weekly protests at Rep. Darrell Issa’s district office effectively forced him out — Campa-Najjar had gotten closer than any candidate in ousting the Hunter Family.
Duncan Hunter and his father Duncan Hunter Sr., had represented the district — which encompasses east San Diego County and parts of Riverside County — for decades.
Now, Campa-Najjar has another chance to be part of a second “Blue Wave” expected to sweep the country in just 10 days as a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s administration. Recent polls and an upgraded Cook Political Report rating this week suggest he has a good chance.
Republican Stronghold at Risk
University of San Diego Political Science Professor Carl Luna told Courthouse News whether Campa-Najjar succeeds in flipping the district depends on “how much of a blue turnout you get driven by the presidential election.”
“The district is shifting slowly to the blue, voter registration continues to move toward Democrats, but Republicans still have a rare advantage in that district,” Luna said.
“There seems to be a lot more people voting, and one could assume a disproportionate amount would be Democrat. If he wins this year because of a massive ‘Blue Wave’ then that district will have tipped — in many ways that’s what the last couple of elections have been in that district,” Luna added.
But this time around, Campa-Najjar faces another congressional relic Luna postured may not fare well due to his reputation as a “carpetbagger” after abandoning his seat in District 49 in 2018 for a supposed position in the Trump administration which never came to be: former Rep. Darrell Issa.
Luna said Issa’s “baggage from his time in Congress” could work against him in securing the independent vote in District 50, and Republicans who supported former candidate and conservative talk radio host Carl DeMaio may choose to abstain from voting for Issa on Election Day.
But Dee Chavez, a private practice accountant in rural Valley Center, told Courthouse News she was voting for Issa even though she wasn’t an initial supporter of his.
She decided early this year she’d cast her vote for Issa after watching the top three candidates debate in her town prior to the March primary election.
“He was the grown-up in the room between DeMaio and Campa-Najjar,” Chavez said.
“He brought an articulate argument with sound facts and could explain his positions in a measured and logical way without getting all excited,” she added.
Chavez said she saw Issa’s time in Congress as an asset — citing his experience serving as Chair of the House Oversight Committee.
While Campa-Najjar “was very polished” at both candidate forums Chavez attended, “he has no background, no experience and he is going to be lost if he gets elected,” she said.
“We cannot afford at this point to have a training period. We need someone who knows how the cards are dealt and what the rules of the game are,” Chavez said.
Dustin Trotter, a Central Committee member with the Republican Party of San Diego County, echoed Chavez in noting Issa would go back to Congress as a senior member and would immediately get on congressional committees.