San Diego Congressman Duncan Duane Hunter is, once again, the subject of a feature news story in Politico. He’s facing legal problems, a spate of scandalous sounding stories in the local press, and spending more money on lawyers than getting re-elected. Now Papa Hunter is tamping down any inter-party competition.
The last time Hunter made the national news we learned about all the local Republicans circling round his not-yet-politically-dead corpse. The time before we learned about his “freewheeling Washington lifestyle,” with hints of an extramarital affair and hefty bar tabs in all the right places around town.
The Republican Congressman faces allegations of misusing campaign funds as a locally empaneled grand jury heard testimony from Hunter’s parents, former aides, and a female lobbyist. Although he has the repaid campaign more than $60,000, federal prosecutors are interested in tens of thousands of additional charges.
Hunter has sold his home and moved his family in with his parents while he mostly lives in his Capitol Hill office. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees have been paid to a half dozen legal firms. His re-election campaign has seen contributions fall by nearly 50% compared to the last off-year election cycle.
Today’s coverage in Politico suggests Hunter’s father (Duncan L)–and predecessor in the 50th District post–has stepped up to block the fundraising efforts of would-be rivals.
“I can’t lie to you… It’s been impossible to raise money; nobody wants to get involved,” said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who’s running for the seat. “The Hunters have a dynasty. People are afraid of retribution. They’re afraid of destroying their own political career or their relationship with the Hunter family.”
The elder Hunter’s efforts could backfire on the party during a midterm election in which Republicans have little margin for error. Under California’s “jungle” primary system, the top two primary vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. While Wells and other Republicans are struggling to peel off GOP support, two Democrats are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and stand a solid chance of qualifying for the run-off.
The campaign’s renewed effort comes as it appears their candidate won’t be facing charges prior to the primary:
Party leaders in Washington are hoping that if an indictment comes down, it happens before the June 5 primary, giving them ample time to back a different Republican. But that appears to be wishful thinking: A grand jury in San Diego will continue hearing testimony against Hunter at the end of May and beginning of June, according to multiple sources close with the investigation. Investigators recently started questioning people who had not been contacted during the year-long investigation, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Hunter raised $210,268 in the first quarter, but legal expenses related to the campaign finance investigation have taken up much of his spending. 43% of his contributions have come from individual donors.
Democratic Congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar reported raising $205,000 in the first quarter and now has the most cash on hand of any of the candidates. 89% of his contributions came from individual donors. His cumulative donations (2017+2018) are also at the top of the field.
Campa-Najjar, a former Obama administration official, has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, the local chapter of Indivisible, the San Diego Labor Council, and the San Diego Free Press.
Democrat Josh Butner, a retired Navy SEAL backed by Rep. Scott Peters, raised $176,226 in the first quarter. 79% of his fundraising has come via individual donors.
Republican businessman Shamus Sayed raised $67,640 in the period. 41% of his funding has come from individuals, with the remainder coming out of his own pocket.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who many thought would be a strong contender, raised a disappointing $16,000. 100% of his contributions came from individuals.
Internal polling released by the Campa-Najjar campaign shows Hunter leading with 39% of likely voters, 25% undecided, Campa-Najjar at 14%, Mayor Bill Wells at 8% percent, and Josh Butner at 6%. Democrat Patrick Malloy, who ran in 2016 and is on the ballot posted at 6%, despite not actively campaigning.
Sign of the times?
Good morning! All of the 20 @emilyslist candidates on the ballot in IN, NC, and OH last night cleared their primaries and will advance to the general. Have a nice day!
— Julie McClain Downey (@McClainJulie) May 9, 2018
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