Three incumbent Democrats. Zero controversies. No surprises expected on June 5. I thought this snapshot would be the most boring of all the election pieces I write pre-primary. But it wasn’t. I learned some stuff, and you will too.
The Democratic Party has a majority of registered voters in each of these Congressional Districts. There are no challengers from the more progressive wing of the party taking on the center to center-left incumbents.
My assumption was that I’d find a bunch of minor GOP functionaries and a smattering of whack-a-doodles in the opposition. They’re there, but there are also a few compelling stories to be told along the way.
Vargas-land, aka the 51st Congressional District
Incumbent Democrat Juan Vargas holds the seat Bob Filner gave up to run for Mayor, and it’s a safe place for Democratic incumbents, with 145,185 registered Democrats and 49,190 registered Republicans.
The 51st includes all of Imperial County and the extreme southern portions of San Diego County running along the U.S.–Mexico border. Cities in the district include National City, Chula Vista, and El Centro.
Congressman Juan Vargas has a solidly liberal voting record in Congress. He’s no progressive firebrand, but when push comes to shove Vargas says “No’ to the Republicans worst ideas.
His political pedigree includes positions on the San Diego City Council, California State Assembly, and State Senate. He is the endorsed candidate of the local Democratic Party.
During 2017 he raised $416,127 and spent $431,527. He was the only candidate in this contest to have a listing on Open Secrets, which likely means his opponents are cash poor.
Republican Louis Fuentes hails from Calexico. He served as a City Councilman and Mayor in that city, moving on to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors via an appointment from Gov. Schwarzenegger. Currently on the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Board of Directors and California’s Western Heating Performance Alliance. Wants everybody to know he holds a black belt in Aikido Karate, Japanese style Jujistu and Judo.
His campaign site is basically just recycled from one he set up in 2016. It reveals Fuentes interest in veterans issues.
Republican Juan Hidalgo is a retired US Marine who hails from National City. There are lots of pictures on his Facebook page of him campaigning, a few references to the Tea Party, and endorsements from the Imperial Beach Republican Club, and Poway School Board member TJ Zane.
That’s it. His campaign site is “Coming Soon.” He also ran for the seat in 2016, winning 27% of the vote.
Deputy Sheriff Juan (Charlie) Carlos Mercado is running as a No Party Preference candidate. He also ran a self-funded campaign for Congress in 2016,
He has a fascinating biography on the campaign website that begins:
Juan Carlos Mercado “Charlie” was born in Mexico in 1970. At the age of five, he found himself without parents and had no choice but to begin a life of child labor. As the lack of upward mobility and economic struggles mounted around him, he crossed the border into the United States (U.S.) as an undocumented immigrant.
Needless to say, his views on immigration are strong, starting with opposition to the construction of Trump’s border wall and including strong support for deported veterans.
Kevin Mitchell is a No Party Preference candidate. And that’s all we know about him. His name is common enough so I don’t trust Google to give me the right Kevin Mitchell.
No campaign website, Facebook page or Twitter account.
Republican John Renison was born in Imperial County and resides in Coronado. In 2016, he ran for California State Senate against Toni Atkins. The campaign website biography makes the claim he “trailed her closely” in the general election. I dunno, but where I come from, getting 37.5% of the vote isn’t anywhere near close.
Speaking of lies, here’s a line from his campaign bio:
Currently a rising political social media public figure, John Renison is becoming well known for exposing lies of the political elite and the media.
Here’s another bit of truth from his campaign issues page:
We are already witnessing how tax cuts help the middle class and small business owners. Many employees have seen dramatic increases in their take home pay.
He took a break from praying against abortions in front of the Chula Vista Planned Parenthood recently to get his picture taken with Russian Special agent Kevin Nunes.
Scott Peters is no longer an Easy Republican target in the 52nd District
Not so long ago, the 52nd Congressional District was a true partisan battleground. Now its vulnerability exists only the minds of GOP consultants, along with the half-dozen candidates running against Scott Peters.
The gap between Democratic (140,311) and Republican (124,293) voter registrations continues to grow.
The 52nd includes coastal and central portions of the city of San Diego, along with La Jolla, and the suburbs of Poway and Coronado.
Incumbent Democrat Scott Peters is about as centrist as you’re going to get for a Democrat in California. What this means in practical terms is he votes reliably well when it comes to social issues, but has to be watched on economic matters.
Peters is reportedly running for his last term. having set his sights on the San Diego Mayor’s contest in 2020. His previous experiences as a Port Commissioner and City Councilman, along with the knockdown, dragged out fights he experienced in previous elections make for a formidable track record.
In 2017 Peters raised $1,540,155 (his district includes La Jolla, after all) and spent $391,985
Perhaps the most interesting of his Republican opponents is Michael Allman, whose campaign is built around a promise to let voters weigh in on how he votes in Congress. Allman’s cred as a businessman comes via a 14-year tenure at Sempra Energy and his ascension to be CEO of Southern California Gas Company.
From his website:
In my version of Direct Democracy, the role of a member of Congress changes. Rather than the Congressperson telling you how they intend to vote on the issues, instead I will provide information to help you decide, and I will listen to what you have to say and be bound by your decision. I still have my own personal views, of course, but they are secondary to the views of my voters. As your Congressman, my role becomes one of an advocate. My personal views and my explanation for why I support a specific position will be accessible via a button that says “Mike’s View.” You are free to vote with me or vote in a different way. If a majority of voters are against my view, I’m voting with the people.
I have to wonder how this would work with a GOP Congressional leadership dedicated to not releasing the text of legislation until shortly before it gets voted on. Let’s face it, folks, the so-called ‘tax reform bill’ was so poorly written and vetted that significant sections will need reworking. And how about that Budget Bill, with its 2000+ pages coming off the printer shortly prior to the floor vote?
Allman raised $341,452 and spent $54,032 in 2017.
Former counter-terrorism prosecutor and Army Reserve officer Omar Qudrat is a Republican candidate for Congress.
There’s lots of brave talk about national security, terrorism, and the national debt on Qudrat’s campaign site. Apparently, he hasn’t gotten the memo about Republicans no longer caring about the national debt. And it’s implied that he’ll fix California’s state pension obligations. Then there’s the code for privatization of public education, aka ‘our failing public schools.’
Finally, what is it with these GOP candidates wanting to get their picture taken with Rep. Devin Nunes? Do they think it will get them some social media love from Putin’s bots?
Qudrat raised $182,519 and spent $142,181 during 2017
The other Republican with actual campaign funding in this contest is Dr. James Veltmeyer.
Veltmeyer’s signature issue is Healthcare reform, and he’s made it clear he’s against both the status quo and single-payer.
The time is long overdue to consign both the third-party payer system and single-payer to the dustbin of history. We should instead enact a completely new health reform based on the direct-payer model as embodied in the Medical Association Membership ( MAM ) plan. For a low monthly fee, you receive all your routine care from your own doctor, including basic tests. No copays and quick access. Poor and low-income people receive a government voucher to pay the monthly fee. Doctors are freed from paperwork and government and insurance company mandates that drive up the cost of medicine. Low-premium catastrophic health insurance remains to cover life-threatening health events, accidents, and emergencies. A government voucher going directly to the individual, not the insurance company, will pay for that policy for the poor and low income.
Oh, if it were only that simple, though the part about freeing up healthcare from paperwork is a good thought.
Other than that, Veltmeyer is pretty much a vanilla Republican. He raised $98,225 and spent $85,456 in 2017.
Purple Heart recipient and retired Army Sergeant Danny Casara is another Republican in this contest. He started out running against Rep. Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District but switched contests in August.
Other than a focus on veterans issues, there really isn’t much to tell here.
Whoa! there’s another Republican doctor running against Scott Peters. Dr. Jeffrey Cullen is a former medical director in the San Diego VA System.
He seems like a nice enough guy, with all the proper platitudes about education being important, etc. His big break with Republican orthodoxy is his understanding that climate change is real.
Lastly, we come to Republican John Horst, Cybersecurity Engineer and two-term member of the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group.
He’s another candidate who thinks California is going to hell in a handbasket.
I will lead California’s Congressional Republicans in forming the “Cut California Taxes Caucus.” We will use the “soft power” of our voice from Congress to join with reform minded Californians to put a single issue on the ballot each and every November. The issue will either roll back California taxes or California’s stifling regulations.
Horst’s break from the current administration’s policies is his stance on cannabis, saying it should be removed from being listed as a Schedule 1 drug, and that this is an issue for the states to decide.
How Long Will Susan Davis’ District 53 Reign Last?
With a nearly 2 to 1 advantage in voter registration District 53 deep Blue. It includes eastern portions of Chula Vista, western portions of El Cajon, central and eastern portions of the city of San Diego, as well as eastern suburbs such as Bonita, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley in their entirety.
Incumbent Democrat Susan Davis has held the seat since 2001, and despite a little side-eye from time to time from ambitious members of her own party, it’s hers to hold as long as she wants.
Davis started out with the League of Women Voters, going on to the SDUSD Board of Trustees, and the State Assembly. Her voting record is solidly liberal, progressive on women’s issues, and mindful of the defense contractors who dominate San Diego’s economy.
In 2017, Davis raised $159,235 and spent $185,994.
Here’s a shocker for you. A No Party Preference candidate named Bryan Kim actually raised money in 2017. Not a lot. But more than any of the Republican candidates reported.
I know Kim as the guy with a ponytail who stands out in front of Ralph’s in Hillcrest trying to chat up as many passers-by as will speak with him. This takes guts, and I’m sure that’s why he breaks into song on occassion to relieve the tension. And, no, he’s not crazy.
Here’s the gist of his pitch:
Donald Trump won the presidency by pointing out the obvious — our political system is corrupt and our politicians care far more about their rich donors and special interests than they do about us. Bernie Sanders won millions of votes by reminding us that we are in a class war — our politicians work for the wealth-holders, the owners of the Fortune 500, the multi-billionaires who own 39% of all wealth in the United States. Their personal gain is built on increased profits — profits that come from cutting costs like the healthcare, social security, and solid wages that built this country into a vibrant economy.
Kim raised $16,428 and spent $15,431 in 2017. Maybe if my speech prosthesis is having a good day, I’ll stop and chat next time.
Republican Shawn “Gino” Kane is a car salesman who climbed the ranks into management. His political experience includes serving on the City of San Diego’s Center City Advisory Committee. And, as his website tells us, he’s tenacious.
Maybe I’m getting cynical after reading so many campaign biographies, but why do so many Republicans have such Vanilla issues pages?
Lemon Grove native Matt Mendoza is a Republican running in the 53rd Congressional District. He has been endorsed by San Diego County-East California Republican Assembly (CRA) along with State Senator Joel Anderson.
He’s yet another Republican who is running for Congress to “fix” California. Apparently, he didn’t read any of the articles about the state’s budget surpluses in recent years.
California is broken. Matt Mendoza knows it will require taking on big government in three areas, overtaxing, overspending and over regulation. The solution is easy!!!! Every house hold knows that you should not spend more than you bring in. Our leaders in Sacramento obviously don’t know this. As Californians we must push for an annual balance budget.
He’s also like you to know that the “illegals” are bad:
Now crime is on the rise on the border states. Cutting off people’s heads is not happening just south of the border; it is also at our door steps. Crimes we see on TV news by the drug cartels in Mexico are now happening in the United States.
Psst, Matt. Border cities are among the safest in the nation. Try reading. Ignore Rush Limbaugh for a week or two.
Republican Morgan Murtaugh is currently an on-air political commentator for One America News Network (Right wing, only occasionally promotes conspiracy theories.). She does have actual political experience, having worked for Congressman Brian Bilbray and La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid.
She was against Trump, but now he’s okay because the Heritage Foundation says so. And she’s a millennial.
Finally–whew!– there’s Republican Brett Goda, whose campaign website consists of a placeholder at GoDaddy. No Facebook. No Twitter. Google thinks he’s a sales exec at a high-end furniture store.
Next Up: I’m stocking up on anti-nausea medicine to write about the race to replace Darrell Issa in the 49th Congressional district. This story will probably be appearing next week, as there are a dozen plus candidates, and the various Democratic factions seem to think anybody who writes about them is part of a conspiracy.
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