Three of San Diego’s five Congressional districts are, for now, dominated by Democratic incumbents. Electoral contests in the 51st (Vargas), 52nd (Peters), and 53rd (Davis) all include no-name, no-cash–Republican challengers.
Today I’ll focus on the noisy political contests in the 49th and 50th congressional districts, with a cursory listing of the candidates for the non-competitive seats at the end of the column.
The current version of history says the 49th’s retiring Republican Congressman Darrell Issa saw the handwriting on the wall following a surprisingly close election in 2018 and regular protests outside his Vista office.
While I’m sure both things played a role, a personal drama may have played into the decision.
As he prepares to leave the House and take on the Trump administration trade post, Rep. Darrell Issa is filing for divorce from his wife of 38 years, Kathy. POLITICO reported earlier this year that Issa was drawn into the ugly divorce of Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) after he was *deposed as part of Turner’s divorce proceedings.
“Issa dismissed any suggestion that he had been romantically involved with Turner’s wife..
Note: *The Politico story has it wrong on this point. While Issa was subpoenaed the divorce was settled before his testimony could be recorded.
Anyhow, Issa decided to quit, and will soon be joining the crew of presidential appointees charged with looting the American commons.
After a wild 16-candidate primary, Republican Diane Harkey and Democrat Mike Levin made it to the general election ballot.
Oceanside Assemblyman Rocky Chavez dropped his state office re-election bid and jumped into the congressional contest, based on polling showing him with enough name recognition and –reportedly–assurances of an endorsement from Issa.
State Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey ended up with Issa’s blessing, and two Democrats ended up making it into the general election for Chavez’ old seat.
On the Democratic side, Doug Applegate–who’d come within 1600 votes of unseating Issa in the 2016 election–felt he was entitled to another shot at the 49th, and so did his supporters.
Orange County Democrat Mike Levin joined the contest, backed by heavy hitters in the state party’s political hierarchy.
While there were other notable Democrats who joined the fray, the social media surrounding the race turned it into a sick re-run of the conflict between the Sanders and Clinton factions in the last presidential election.
There was open speculation and much hand-wringing about the primary ending with no Democrats going into the fall contest. Newcomer Sarah Jacobs took third place ahead of Applegate once all the votes were counted. And Rocky Chavez finished sixth.
Republican Diane Harkey is running as the official victim in the fall contest for the 49th. Her campaign website starts out with “You’ve seen the smears, now read the Truth…” And in keeping with the spirit of the times, this victimhood includes aligning oneself with the glory of Our Dear Leader.
From Union-Tribune coverage of Tuesday’s NBC7 debate:
Harkey, a member of the Board of Equalization and former assemblywoman from Dana Point, was unabashed in her support of Trump and his policies, offering scarce criticism of the president and frequently praising his handling of most issues, especially those related to the economy. She said she supported his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal and supports the building of a border wall.
Harkey supported the president’s tariffs imposed on China, said she’d support funding Trump’s proposed Space Force and expressed opposition to medical care for all or setting up a nationwide single-payer healthcare system.
“Some people don’t like his style,” Harkey said of the president. “But on substance, on the economy, which hits people pockets, we need to keep that going.”
Like the President, Harkey has endorsements from some “fine” people. Or at least she did until it was pointed out that maybe they weren’t so fine, after all.
The San Diego Patriots, who claimed the shooting deaths of 17 people in Parkland, Fla. earlier this year “reeks of a false flag” are among her fans, as are San Diegans for Secure Borders (SDSB), described by MediaMatters as “an anti-immigrant group that promotes white nationalist propaganda and attacks Latino and Muslim immigrants as foreign invaders.”
Aside from her blessings by rabid right-wingers, there are questions of her suitability for the job, as this snip from the Union-Tribune editorial endorsing Mike Levin indicates:
What is clear, though, is how ill-equipped Harkey is for this job. As a Board of Equalization member, she was rebuked for using staff members to burnish her image, including having 98 board employees staff a conference in her district called “Connecting Women to Power.” This and other problems led Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to remove most of the major duties of the board.
Yet even though a Democrat on the board, Jerome Horton, faced even sterner criticism than she did, Harkey told the U-T board that she had been the victim of a “politically motivated” attack. This is in keeping with Harkey’s history of depicting any criticism of her record as a state legislator and a Dana Point official as unfair. While Levin responds in measured tones to criticism, Harkey is overly defensive.
Sample Endorsements: San Diego Republican Party; Orange County Republican Party; National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC); Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, San Diegans for Secure Borders; San Diego Patriots.
Environmental Attorney Mike Levin’s had the luxury of taking the high road in the general election campaign.
A robust canvassing campaign aimed at boosting turnout continues blanketing the district with the kind of person-to-person contact considered the most effective way to influence voters. And former President Obama’s endorsement probably hasn’t hurt either.
While polling shows Levin with a lead at this point, supporter Ellen Montanari had two words of warning for me at a recent event: “Hillary Clinton.”
Sample Endorsements: California Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, Sierra Club, Equality California, Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Where do I start with poor, pitiful, incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter?
There’s a Justice Department / Deep State conspiracy against him.
The quarter-million dollars he’s alleged to have misspent is all a lie, unless his wife did it, in which case it’s not Hunter’s fault. The big bar tabs and the five personal relationships referred to in the indictment are just business as usual.
Here’s a snip from conservative writer Steven Greenhut’s column, published in Reason/Orange County Register:
The Hunters pleaded not guilty and deny the allegations. Rep. Hunter’s statement accuses the Justice Department of waging a political witch hunt designed to harm his re-election chances. He said the campaign made mistakes but they repaid those things.
The scandal still brings to mind the late journalist H.L. Mencken’s observation about politicians in general: “These men…are seldom if ever moved by anything rationally describable as public spirit; there is actually no more public spirit among them than among so many burglars or street-walkers. Their purpose, first, last and all the time, is to promote their private advantage, and to that end…they exercise all the vast powers that are in their hands.”
I’m not as cynical as Mencken, but two elements of Hunter scandal still seem amazing. First, after the indictment was issued Rep. Hunter seemed to have thrown his wife under the bus. Then when journalists started asking questions about Margaret’s role in this, Duncan demanded that they leave his wife out of it. That’s an unseemly approach, and something that may upset some voters more than the details of the indictment itself.
RACE-BAITING — A recent ad from embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter went well into the race-baiting territory and “earned” four Pinocchios from The Washington Post Fact Checker’s Salvador Rizzo. Rizzo wrote that the ad used “naked anti-Muslim bias in an effort to scare Californians into voting for an indicted Republican incumbent. The Democrat on the receiving end of these attacks isn’t even Muslim. All the claims in the ad are false, misleading or devoid of evidence.”
— A spokesman for Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat challenging Hunter, forcefully pushed back against the ad. “You know who is responsible for our actions is ourselves, and Duncan Hunter is the one under indictment and who has been stripped of his committee assignments,” campaign spokesman Nick Singer told my POLITICO colleague Jeremy White. “This is a man who is unhinged and is willing to play on our darkest corners, on the racism that has plagued this country for many years.”
The sad part of all this, as Greenhut points out in his column, is that Hunter will likely retain his seat representing East San Diego County. The district is so siloed and Red that they’ll vote for Hunter even if quits the race.
Sample Endorsements: San Diego Republican Party; California Republican Party; Riverside Republican Party; Americans for Legal Immigration, National Rifle Association, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters
Somebody running hard for office with the ‘sucessful immigrant brand’ in a district with about half its voters with non-Western European ancestry ought to have a decent chance of winning.
In Ammar Campa-Najjar’s case, it’s been an uphill battle all the way. A “Democratic” opponent in the primary is the prime suspect behind a story appearing in an Israeli newspaper about the role his grandfather (who died 16 years before Campa-Najjar was born) played in a terrorist attack.
Ammar won out in the primary and continues to campaign hard, despite his opponent’s appropriation of this faux scandal.
From the Associated Press
About 35 percent of the district is Latino and 15 percent is of Middle Eastern descent. One of Campa-Najjar campaign offices is in the city of El Cajon east of San Diego, near a business district with falafel shops, taco stands and signs in Arabic, English and Spanish, reflecting the district’s changing demographics as immigrants and refugees have settled there.
It is in a dilapidated home with yellow tape around the front porch. On a recent day on the door, a paper sign under Campa-Najjar’s portrait on a red white and blue poster told visitors to knock on the back door.
Campa-Najjar’s campaign has been a largely grassroots operation that until now has largely gone unnoticed as Democrats have concentrated on other districts believed to be more vulnerable for Republicans. The party holds a nearly 15-point registration edge over Democrats, and President Donald Trump won the district by the same margin while losing statewide by more than 4 million votes in 2016.
35 days until Election Day! Options are clear.
Hunter: indicted by the FBI.
Me: cleared by the FBI to serve the White House & Administration.
— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) October 2, 2018
Sample Endorsements: California Labor Federation, California (& San Diego) Democratic Party, Justice Democrats, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), San Diego Democrats for Equality.
A heavily Democratic district that includes Imperial County
Sample Endorsements: San Diego Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, California Teachers Association, Equality California, Sierra Club
Sample Endorsements: Republican Party of Imperial County, Imperial Beach Republican Club, San Diego East County Conservatives, Mountain Empire Gun Owners Association, San Diegans for Secure Borders, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Not all that long ago, the 52nd was considered a swing district. Moderate Democrat Scott Peters has done well enough to the point where the GOP basically gave up early on. This could change if –as rumor has it– Peters and Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer “swap jobs” in 2020.
Sample Endorsements: Planned Parenthood Action Fund, San Diego County Democratic Party, San Diego Democrats for Equality, San Diego Municipal Employees Association, San Diego Police Officers Association, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
Sample Endorsements: Republican Party of San Diego County, Congressman Darrell Issa, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, talk-show host Carl DeMaio.
This is a safe Democratic district. There is talk of a challenge to the incumbent from the left in the 2020 primary.
Sample Endorsements: San Diego County Democratic Party, California League of Conservation Voters, Equality California, the Sierra Club, J Street PAC, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
Sample Endorsements: San Diego County Republican Party, Congressman Darrell Issa, talk-show host Carl DeMaio
Other articles in this series:
- Democrats See Gains in 2018 San Diego Assembly Races
- Democrats Challenge Republican Incumbents for Two of San Diego’s State Senate Seats
- California 2018 Propositions 10-12 | Are They Really About Rent Control, Lunch Breaks and Cage-Free Eggs?
- California 2018 Propositions 5 thru 8: Taxes, Tantrums, Time Changes, and Catheter Cash
- San Diego County Supervisor D4 | Nathan Fletcher vs. Bonnie Dumanis: A Critical Contest
- San Diego’s City Council District 2 | Republican Zapf vs Democrat Dr. Jen: Is a Change Gonna Come
- Climate Change, Clogged Drains, and Lorie Zapf
- San Diego City Council District 4 | Cole vs. Montgomery: How to Make Black Lives Matter?
- City Council District 6: How Can Hough Hew His Way Around An Incumbent’s Advantage?
- San Diego’s City Council District 8 | Martinez vs Moreno: It’s Complicated
- Are You Willing to Look Past Gavin Newsom’s Smile and Carl DeMaio’s Frown in the General Election?
- The Sins of Lorie Zapf – Part 1
- The Sins of Councilwoman Lorie Zapf – Part 2
The San Diego Free Press Progressive Voter Guide, to be published in early October will include these and many other candidates. To see all our coverage for the 2018 elections, go here.
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