First in a series
The filing deadline has now passed for candidates seeking office in California, so it’s time to take a closer look at who’s running, what we know about them, and how they measure up as what needs to be done to end the reign of error also known as the Trump administration.
Incumbent Republican Duncan D. Hunter occupies what should be one of the safest seats in the House of Representatives. His father had the position until 2008. Political consultants say they believe many residents of the 50th Congressional District still think they’re voting for Duncan L Hunter (papa).
Republicans (+11) and white people (58.6%) are dominant parts of the electorate in a district encompassing the mostly rural east and north parts of San Diego County, along with a sliver of Riverside County. Duncan D. won his last two general elections by 70,000 or more votes.
The incumbent Hunter screwed up big time and is facing a Justice Department inquiry into how campaign funds were spent. Locals refer to the scandal as Bunnygate, a reference to a report of campaign dollars being spent to fly the family’s pet rabbit from coast-to-coast.
Monday’s Union-Tribune published a useful map detailing 301 transactions over the past decade totaling $138,666 using campaign money at “bars, cigar lounges, liquor stores, bar-dominant restaurants and similar businesses.”
Hunter’s campaign expenses at drinking establishments exceed those reported by campaigns for the other four members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation, FEC data shows.
For the filing periods covering Jan. 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016, Hunter’s campaign reported 66 transactions totaling $36,358 at bars, pubs, cigar lounges, liquor stores and other establishments known for their alcoholic beverages, the FEC data show. During the same time period, the next-biggest campaign spender at such establishments was Darrell Issa, R-Vista, whose campaign reported 13 charges totaling $5,402.
The campaign for Susan Davis, D-San Diego, spent the least, with one charge for $1,026 at Bullfeathers, data showed. The purpose of the expense was listed as “catering.”
So, yeah, you might say Duncan D. enjoys fine alcoholic beverages on a regular basis; so regular, in fact, that a spokesman for the Congressman felt compelled to tell Politico he’d never attended a meeting in Congress when he was under the influence.
And you just never-mind about those allegations of womanizing. If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for Duncan. No doubt this is what the San Diego Republican County’s leadership had in mind when they endorsed Hunter for the 2018 election.
According to Ballotpedia, Rep. Duncan Hunter raised $461,118 and spent $890,275 for his campaign in 2017. It should be noted he had campaign funds leftover from 2016, and that legal fees ate up much of his spending.
The whiff of scandal has attracted a half-dozen competitors for the June 5 Primary.
The leading Democratic candidate is Ammar Campa-Najjar, a true melting pot candidate if there ever was one. He was born in the East County to a Mexican-Palestinian couple.
He served in the Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs for the Employment and Training Administration, and tasked with reading and helping select the 10 letters that then-President Obama would read each day
His campaign has come from nowhere politically, building a grassroots network, and securing the endorsements of Indivisible District 50 (involving voting in various locations over a month-long period) and the California Democratic Party (with 97% of the delegate vote).
Campa has developed relationships with activist groups throughout the region, and leads in fundraising among all candidates in the district, having raised $520,155 and spent $221,116 in 2017 filings.
His statements and political positions place him squarely in the Progressive camp in the Democratic Party.
The country’s first Mexican-Arab candidate has attracted some serious shade, including a deceptive story in an Israeli newspaper (reposted on various crackpot social media accounts) about his grandfather being a terrorist.
The problem with the story, however, is he never actually met his grandfather. Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar died in 1973. Campa-Najjar was born in 1989.
None-the-less the candidate felt obligated to respond, via the Union-Tribune:
“As many know, I am of Mexican and Palestinian descent. And like many American families, my heritage bears a heartbreaking history. Palestinians and Israelis have lost too much over the years of bloodshed, that’s why I am committed to helping broker a lasting peace in my lifetime,” Najjar-Campa said in the statement.
Campa’s supporters don’t think incumbent Duncan Hunter had anything to do with planting (yes, it was planted) the story; more likely it was one of the other candidates, possibly one with international connections.
Another Democrat running in the 50th District is ex-Navy Seal Josh Butner.
Born in Jamul, Butner enlisted in the Navy in 1988. He was in Iraq in the first Gulf War, became an officer in 1995 and served in Afghanistan and again in Iraq. The retired lieutenant commander currently sits on the Jamul-Dulzura Union School District board, with oversight of four schools and less than 900 students.
“When you look at anybody for any political office you should look at their past experiences. I served for 23 years,” Butner said in the interview. “It shows dedication and you’ve been exposed to foreign policy at the tip of the spear. I learned a lot about cultures, in conflict and cooperation. It should be a requirement to have served to even run.”
His comment was posted under the heading “shots at each other,” indicating he was referring to fellow Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who has not served in the military.
The ex-Navy Seal later modified the statement to say he meant some form of national service, but not before drawing a heaping of scorn from local activists.
Butner has received support on the national level, with support from the PACs of House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley. Locally, Rep. Scott Peters has endorsed candidate Butner.
His campaign raised $422,799 and spent $146,105 during 2017, so he’s obviously well connected.
Butner’s politics seem to tend toward the centrists in the Democratic Party. While this group does due diligence on denouncing the demagoguery of Trump administration, their willingness to play footsie with corporate interests is cause for concern.
It also seems to me that Butner has expended too much energy campaigning against fellow Democrat Campa. People living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. His currently running TV ad features the candidate wearing a wetsuit bearing the logo & name of his current employer, Vista-based Aqualung. I guess that’s what centrist-types call running against special interests.
Republican “Shamus” Sayed says he is fiscally conservative and socially moderate, running “because I want to make a change” and wants to bring “integrity and accountability” to the office.
He runs a business called Interpreters Unlimited and reportedly is willing to put his own personal wealth into the campaign. His experiences include being president of the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association and serving on the Captain’s Advisory Board for the San Diego Police Department.
According to Ballotpedia, the campaign raised $185,539 and spent $38,053 in 2017.
Sayed grew up in the district but is not currently a resident (which is permissible).
None of the other candidates listed in the California Secretary of State’s report raised significant funds in 2017.
Perhaps the most high profile of those candidates is El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who was late in declaring for the seat. He describes himself as a conservative Republican. In addition to having a doctorate in clinical psychology, Wells is a registered nurse, currently serving as the CEO of Broadwell Health, Inc. Wells will attract some money by the time the next financial reports come out, and is poised to make the fall ballot IF Hunter gets indicted or drops out.
Realtor ran against Hunter as a Democrat in 2016 and lost.
Richard Kahle is running as an independent (Or No Party Preference, as we say in California). Kahle says he is running “from the center with a calm, reasonable approach to governing, free from the outside influence of lobbyists, corporations, and special interests.”
Here’s what Public Policy Polling says is the breakdown in the 50th Congressional District, according to the Campa campaign. (I could not find the poll in question)
- Voters Supporting GOP candidates: 54%
- Campa 25%
- Other 7%
- Undecided 13%
Next Up: A quick tour through San Diego’s Congressional Districts currently occupied by Democrats and unlike to change in November. I’ll try and dig up some gossip to keep it interesting.
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