UPDATE: DeMaio decided to forfeit his filing fee (and won’t be running) after looking at some not-encouraging polling numbers.
The possibility of both the 49th and the 50th Congressional Districts having only Republicans battling it out in the November election became real yesterday. It’s looking increasingly likely that the GOP’s Rocky Chavez and Diane Harkey will win the top two spots in the June primary, as squabbling Democrats in the 49th are busy figuring out a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Republican Carl DeMaio paid a $1,740 filing fee and pulled nomination papers on Monday from the County Registrar of Voters, signaling his intent to challenge Rep. Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District. The incumbent Congressman is widely considered as damaged goods, with the Justice Department convening a grand jury to consider charges stemming from a scandal involving campaign spending.
Writing about the former City Councilman’s potential candidacy at SDRostra, San Diego’s conservative political outlet, Steve Gramm referenced polling showing DeMaio and Hunter both making it to the November general election. That research purportedly shows a path to DeMaio winning a Republican vs Republican contest.
If accurate, it goes without saying — that polling must have surveyed Hunter’s most significant negatives, involving the ongoing Department of Justice investigation about his campaign’s expenditures. But, did it include any of DeMaio’s potential negatives?
No doubt, DeMaio’s very deserved reputation as a libertarian-leaning fiscal hawk, a public pension reformer, and the organizer of a statewide ballot measure to repeal the gas tax would all play significantly well in the conservative East and North County (including back-country) areas making up the district.
If DeMaio returns to the Registrar’s office by Friday, March 9, with 40 signatures and completed paperwork, his commitment to appear on the June primary ballot will be official.
DeMaio issued a generic statement to the media, leaving open the possibility of changing his mind:
“I appreciate all the San Diegans who have reached out to me to encourage me to run for Congress. If we want better results from government, we must first start by fixing Congress and holding them accountable when they violate the public’s trust. I expect to make a decision in the next week.”
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells announced his candidacy in late February. An endorsement from longtime Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents most of the district at the county level, might help Wells with a name recognition problem that reportedly has him polling in single digits.
“We need a choice and it’s time for a change,” she said. “Duncan, I’m sorry to say, has lost the public’s trust.”
Businessman Shamus Sayed, according to the Union-Tribune’s Michael Smolens, is planning on using his personal wealth to find a sweet spot between the conservatives (Hunter, Wells, DeMaio) and two Democrats, former Labor Department spokesman Ammar Campa-Najjar (who leads among all candidates in fundraising) and school board member Josh Butner.
San Diego Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Zelt is also running as a Republican.
Campa-Najjar won an endorsement at the California State Democratic Party convention recently with 97% of the votes.
The San Diego Republican Party endorsed Congressman Hunter early in the contest, a is saying it has no intention of changing its mind. Last weekend, he also received an endorsement from the state GOP’s executive board.
There has been open speculation about Hunter getting a boost from President Donald Trump during an upcoming visit to inspect the border wall.
From the Union-Tribune:
Hunter, an early supporter of Trump, might be one of the few politicians in the county who could benefit politically by being seen with the president during his visit.
All that could take some of the focus off what Hunter is now mostly known for: a criminal investigation into his campaign finances, his drinking, his questionable relationships with women and his aggressive advocacy of smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping.
Anything would help. His political problems are getting worse. The GOP establishment in Washington has been growing increasingly impatient with Hunter and, according to Politico, has given the greenlight to consultants to work with Republican candidates opposing him.
Hunter can be expected to play up DeMaio’s status as a carpetbagger.
From the Union-Tribune article on DeMaio (probably) entering the contest:
No part of San Diego, where DeMaio served on the council, is in the 50th Congressional District. But his Rancho Bernardo home is near Escondido and San Marcos, which are in the district. Under the Constitution, residency in the district is not required to serve in Congress, only the state.
DeMaio is a conservative talk-radio host on KOGO-AM (600) and is involved in an effort to repeal a gas tax that pays for statewide infrastructure projects. He served on the San Diego City Council from 2008 until 2012, when he ran for mayor, finishing with 47.5 percent of the vote, just behind Bob Filner in the general election.
DeMaio ran for Congress in 2014 in the 52nd District but lost to now-Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego after receiving 48.4 percent of the vote.
There is a glimmer of hope for both the 49th and 50th Districts. It’s called high voter turn out.
The grassroots campaign of Ammar Campa-Najjar should not be ignored. And we can always hope for a miracle cure of the malaise descending over the 49th, though I’m personally dubious after dealing with folks up there. It’s my impression that supporters of Mike Levin and Doug Applegate will let a Republican take the seat rather than compromise their privilege. (not a typo)
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