California’s 50th Congressional District, which encompasses much of East San Diego County, wouldn’t normally seem like a seat worth fighting for by Democrats. But these are not normal times.
In last year’s general election, 63.5% percent of voters in the district cast ballots for Republican Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, beating out Donald Trump’s 54.6% margin.
Hunter inherited the seat from his father, Duncan Lee Hunter, who mounted a failed campaign for President in 2008. The half-serious joke in political circles is that many voters didn’t realize Dad had retired after 14 terms.
Duncan D. Hunter’s political career has been troubled as of late.
The Union-Tribune’s Morgan Cook won the local Society for Professional Journalists award for Journalist of the Year for her reporting on Rep. Hunter’s campaign finance screw ups.
Her reporting highlighted the tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of campaign funds on items seemingly personal in nature during 2015 and 2016, according to records from Hunter’s campaign — a potential violation of House rules and federal law.
The most famous of those personal expenses was the use of $600 in campaign money for airline fees to fly a pet rabbit coast-to-coast, the disclosure of which the Congressman called an example of overreach by the House Office of Congressional Ethics.
Hunter repaid roughly $60,000 to the campaign by taking out a second mortgage on his home, saying through his lawyers the expenditures were “inadvertent and unintentional.”
On March 22, 2017, the House Ethics Committee voted to defer its probe into the lawmaker at the request of the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation.
This week, the Union-Tribune reported on Hunter’s latest campaign reports, indicating he’s now paying for legal advice from seven law firms.
Hunter’s previous reports have shown payments to three law firms: Berke Farah LLP, a political law firm in Washington, D.C.; Christopher Amolsch, a criminal defense lawyer in Alexandria, Virginia; and Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, a firm with offices San Diego that handles a variety of legal issues, including criminal defense…
…The latest report also shows payments to four law firms that had never before appeared on Hunter’s disclosures.
Those firms appearing on financial disclosures for the first time included Higgs Fletcher & Mack LLP and Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek in San Diego, along with Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky PLLC in Warrenton, Virginia, and Wiley Rein LLP in Washington DC.
Congressman Hunter’s total legal expenditures for the second quarter of 2017 were $153,000, plus $114,000 in debt. It’s safe to say the Congressman is deeply concerned about his legal troubles.
Indivisible groups in San Diego crowdfunded $7000 to erect a billboard in Hunter’s district to make voters aware of the Congressman’s legal troubles.
Nearly 48% of voters in Hunter’s district are are Republicans; just over 27% are Democrats, and another 24% do not belong to a political party.
What makes the incumbent’s job security questionable, though, are the monies flowing into candidates lining up to oppose Hunter in 2018.
According to second quarter reports from the Federal Election Commission, two of the four Democrats lined up to oppose Hunter raised enough cash to mount serious campaigns against him.
Candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar raised nearly $171,000. Josh Butner raised just over $141,000. Trailing in the fundraising among the Democrats were Gloria Chadwick ($24K), Pierre Beauregard ($12.5K) and 2016 opponent Jeffrey Malloy ($347).
Malloy spent about $24,000 running against Hunter, who spent $878,000 in the fall election. Congressman Hunter’s report for the second quarter of 2017 showed receipts of $318,729.87.
Outside of Malloy, I’d never heard of any of the other Democratic opponents prior to this year.
Here are some snips from local media about those candidates:
Ammar Campa-Najjar, via NBC7 News:
Campa-Najjar, whose mother is Mexican American and whose father is Palestinian American, says he spent a lot of time speaking to Hispanic voters in his district to get them to the polls. In 2012, the district voted for Obama, but four years later did not show support for Hillary Clinton.
During his time with the Obama administration, Campa-Najjar was a public affairs officer at the Labor Department and also worked in the President’s office handling constituent correspondence and being a liaison with the community.
He was also a Director of Communications for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He tells NBC Latino he hopes to use his experience “to win some hearts and minds,” like he did in 2012.
Josh Butner, via the Union-Tribune:
A retired Navy SEAL is running against Rep. Duncan Hunter, the fourth Democrat to enter next year’s race.
Josh Butner, a member of the Jamul-Dulzura Union School Board of Education, said he believes representing the 50th Congressional District would help fulfill a commitment to public service that started in his childhood, through his career in the Navy, and now with his position at the school district.
Gloria Chadwick, via the Union-Tribune:
“Because of your corruption, I am going to run against you,” Gloria Chadwick, a Democrat, told Hunter at a town hall meeting in Ramona on Saturday.
A member of the Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Trustees for 18 years, Chadwick said she decided to run after attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March the following day. When she returned home, she said she was further motivated after reading another report of Hunter’s questionable use of campaign funds and decided to run.
“I have to say that as my representative, I am startled by the corrupt nature of it,” she said to Hunter.
Pete Beauregard, via the Union-Tribune:
Pierre “Pete” Beauregard from Ramona is the third Democrat to challenge the Alpine Republican in a solidly red district that covers much of north and eastern San Diego County and stretches to Temecula in Riverside County.
Beauregard said he’s running to get big money out of politics, provide greater access to affordable health care, to protect the environment, and to keep the country out of wars. He said decided to run after reflecting on how Hunter represents the district and how he carries himself.
Hunter comes off as a “magnificent boob” who “doesn’t know what side of the bed to get out of,” Beauregard said.
Candidate Hannah Gbeh dropped out of the running in early May.
Casting shade…(Donald Trump interviewed in the NYT)
— Justin Sink (@justinsink) July 20, 2017
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