SAN DIEGO (CN) – Congressman Duncan Hunter’s guilty plea to a single charge of campaign finance fraud late last year and his resignation this week has made the 50th Congressional District race one of the most-watched 2020 races in the nation, as a millennial Democratic candidate makes his second attempt to flip the Republican stronghold.
Campa-Najjar bets on himself a second time
Hunter, a six-term congressman first elected in 2008, officially left office Jan. 13. The same day, a poll by The San Diego Union-Tribune and 10News conducted by SurveyUSA showed Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar leading the field of 10 candidates with 26% support.
Former District 49 Rep. Darrell Issa and Carl DeMaio, a conservative talk show host and former San Diego city councilman, are essentially tied with 21% and 20% support among likely voters, respectively.
The fellow Republican state Sen. Brian Jones also had double-digit support with 12%.
In an interview, Campa-Najjar said he’s been running to flip the longtime Republican-held seat for three years nonstop.
While he recognizes 40% of registered voters in the district are Republican, he said it’s “60% everything else.”
“I’m the only one making the case I want to represent everybody: Democrats, Republicans and independents,” Campa-Najjar said.
“I’m a realistic, common-sense person. I don’t think solutions exist on the fringes of either party,” he added.
Campa-Najjar said he supports “cracking down” on illegal immigration but that immigration reform is needed to give legal permanent status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and their parents.
He said he supports increasing border security and infrastructure measures, complimenting Hunter’s participation with the bipartisan San Diego congressional delegation in securing funding for border infrastructure and addressing an ongoing international sewage contamination crisis in the Tijuana River Valley and Pacific Ocean.
But Jenny Weddel of the progressive group Indivisible Fallbrook said she never felt Hunter represented her well.
“He tended to focus on things I don’t think were good priorities. I’m concerned about climate change and the longer wildfire season and he wasn’t actively focused on that,” Weddel said.
“He has represented a very small subset of white, conservative constituents. But the progressives of this district are becoming more involved and more hopeful and there are more of us than people give us credit for,” Weddel added.
She said she believes independent and no party preference voters can be “swung” toward progressive issues.
While she doesn’t feel Hunter improved the district, Weddel said she’s witnessed Campa-Najjar go out of his way at town hall meetings to address constituents donning red “Make American Great Again” hats.
“The things Ammar is running on are something everyone can agree with,” Weddel said. “Everyone wants their health care costs lowered; everyone wants more jobs brought to District 50.”
But whether Campa-Najjar can succeed in the March 3 California primary election or even be the first Democrat elected to represent the 50th District in decades doesn’t necessarily hinge on middle-of-the-road policy positions, according to University of San Diego Political Science Professor Carl Luna.