SAN DIEGO (CN) – U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, is polling ahead in his re-election bid for the 50th Congressional District, despite facing federal charges of misuse of campaign funds, a poll released Monday shows.
A Survey USA poll sponsored by The San Diego Union-Tribune and KGTV-TV San Diego shows Hunter ahead of Democratic contender Ammar Campa-Najjar by 8 points should he remain on the November ticket and continue to pursue re-election while fighting criminal charges filed against him in the Southern District of California.
Federal authorities charged Hunter and his wife Margaret in a 60-count indictment last week on suspicion of misusing $250,000 in campaign funds. They pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance Thursday and were released on relatively low bond amounts of $15,000 for the congressman and $10,000 for his wife.
The couple has no assets and is “living paycheck to paycheck,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern said during last week’s court hearing.
Monday’s poll revealed Republican voters in the 50th District stand-by their congressman, with 77 percent saying they would vote for him if he is the only Republican nominee on the ballot. Nearly 60 percent say the criminal charges make no difference in their decision.
But in a scenario where a court order removes Hunter’s name from the ticket, 84 percent of Republicans say they’d vote for whomever the GOP chooses to replace him rather than vote for Campa-Najjar.
But independent voters are more likely to vote for Campa-Najjar, with 44 percent of voters saying they’d vote him compared to 41 percent who say they’ll vote for Hunter.
Forty-eight percent of independents said the charges against Hunter make them less likely to vote for his re-election, which may be the boost Campa-Najjar needs to take over the traditionally red district.
Eighty-five percent of Democratic voters say they plan to vote for Campa-Najjar.
The majority of Republicans – 64 percent – think Hunter should remain in office and continue to run for re-election; 62 percent of Democrats think the congressman should resign now.
Sixty-four percent of Republicans think the charges against Hunter are “politically motivated,” while 66 percent of Democrats disagree. Independents are split over whether there are political motivations behind the charges: 41 percent believe they are and 42 percent do not.
The Justice Department began investigating the Hunters nearly a year and a half ago, following investigative stories by the Union-Tribune which looked at the congressman’s expenditures and found he’d spent campaign funds on travel and other personal expenses.
The congressman went on multiple talk shows last week including segments on Fox News blasting the charges against him. He said he never misspent campaign funds and pointed out his wife, who was his campaign manager, would “be looked at too.”
In a statement last week, Hunter called the prosecution a “witch hunt” and suggested the timing of the charges filed a couple months before the November election was “politically motivated.”
Hunter was elected to Congress in 2008 and has represented the 50th Congressional District since it was re-districted following the 2010 census. The district includes rural east San Diego County communities including Poway, Romana, Alpine and Borrego Springs.
Monday’s poll collected data over five days following the Hunters’ indictment.