Now that Congressman Duncan Hunter and wife Margaret have been indicted, Republicans are working hard on formulating a strategy to keep his District 50 seat red.
While the Representative from Alpine has been full of bluster, anybody who’s actually read the 60 counts against him knows he’s a dead man walking. All that’s left for him to do is work out a plea deal that is consummated after November 6. Oh, and hope his wife doesn’t escalate expression of her rage beyond the stony silence on display at their arraignment.
There were about a hundred or so people on hand to witness Hunter walk into the San Diego Federal Courthouse. His dash from the curb to the door was more like a circus parade than a perp walk, as demonstrators from various Indivisible chapters waved signs, wore bunny ears (in honor of the plane tickets purchased for the family’s pet rabbit), and chanted “lock him up.”
Margaret Hunter entered the building separately, ignored her husband in the courtroom, and sat several seats away from him. Perhaps the parts of the indictment concerning her husband’s expenditures for “personal friends,” aka Individuals 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18, soured her mood. Or perhaps it’s that her father-in-law keeps saying all the criminal acts were her fault.
On Wednesday, reporters greeted the Congressman as he walked up a boat ramp at Point Loma Sportfishing Landing. He was ready to rant.
From the Union-Tribune:
“This is political — period,” Hunter said. “This is the U.S government — what I would call the deep state — or folks in the U.S. government that don’t care what the election does, they want to rig the election their own way, because they can’t beat me in a real election…”
The congressman pushed back on the suggestion he should resign.
“I’m not resigning,” Hunter said. “I’m not gonna resign with a bunch of leftist government thugs throwing allegations at me. … This means nothing — the indictment is all they have. They only have what you’ve now seen. That’s it. I’ve done nothing wrong and I say bring the trial now.”
“There’s nothing illegal about being poor.” The East County Congressman is so disconnected with reality that he’s trying to use poverty as a defense, even as he continues to try and throw his wife under the bus.
From Fox 5:
Asked about the indictment’s claim that the Hunters overdrew their personal bank accounts more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period, resulting in $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees, the congressman said, “There’s nothing illegal about being poor.” Hunter also emphasized his wife’s role in managing the family’s finances.
I don’t know how many people would consider themselves poor with a $174,000 salary, free health care, and additional expenses paid for by the government. I don’t know how many poor people consider spending more than $14,000 on a family vacation in Italy.
I do know that when it comes to work requirements and spending caps on programs designed to serve those who are, in fact, poor, Congressman Hunter is a reliable ‘yes’ vote.
If Hunter were to go to trial, his lawyers would be faced with trying to convince a jury pool from San Diego and Imperial Counties with median incomes of $62,962 and $41,807 respectively about the Congressman’s poverty status.
The Congressman and his wife pled not guilty in Federal Court this morning. They have been allowed to remain free on a $15,000 and $10,000 bond respectively. He is going to be required to turn in all his guns by next Monday.
Hunter, after initially refusing to give up his committee assignments, has now agreed to do so. This avoids an onerous September vote where Democrats could have used the forum to highlight GOP ethics issues.
Don’t worry, though. This case is never going to trial. There’s just too much dirty laundry hidden in the various counts of the indictment. And Margaret Hunter doesn’t want to sit in a courtroom while her hubby’s infidelities get an airing.
The idea for Republicans is to keep Duncan Hunter alive enough as a candidate to make it past November 6th with a victory. Handicappers currently believe the incumbent will win with 54% of the vote, which is only down three points from the pre-indictment predictions.
While Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar is getting some big-name support (Senator Elizabeth Warren and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, among others), and has put together a convincing ground game (with the help of Indivisible) getting a deeply read and Trump-supporting electorate in the district is going to be a herculean task.
So the strategy at the moment in the backrooms of the GOP is to run a “keep the seat red campaign.” The incumbent would then be available to cast a vote for speaker (or minority leader) just before resigning. A special election in the spring would be a walk in the park for Republicans.
A big part of any ‘keep the seat warm’ game would be floating the special election candidacy of somebody with a big enough name to keep both California party leaders and East County voters interested.
While retiring Congressman Darrell Issa seems like the obvious choice, Scott Lay at the Nooner (which I read every day!) thinks we should be looking at CAGOP Party Chairman Jim Brulte. Maybe that’s why Brulte signed up for Twitter this week.
A move toward Brulte as the apparent successor would give security to GOP and GOP-leaning independents in CA50 to vote for Hunter on November 6 to “keep the seat red.” Hunter would then be expected to resign after the vote for Speaker is complete. Remember, Hunter has clearly documented allegations of insults to the military and veterans in a district where that is deeply harmful. A campaign for the GOP must be about the seat and not Hunter.
Sure, local San Diego current and past GOP electeds would like a shot in a special, but nobody has a profile like Brulte or can mobilize endorsements and money with the same ability. Brulte is also carrying the duty of Republican gubernatorial candidate and San Diego County resident John Cox. President Trump would be happy with a Brulte candidacy, and even in these tough days for POTUS, that likely means something in this district.
Of course, the ballot ballet is difficult to choreograph. But if Will Bailey can elect an actual dead guy to keep a seat open (The West Wing, season 4, episode 7), the GOP can elect an all-but politically dead guy to hold the seat for a few months. Perhaps, though, only if they can effectively communicate that plan to voters.
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