SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two years after losing a bid to unseat Rep. Duncan Hunter, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar will head to a November runoff election to fill the post now left vacant by Hunter's resignation.
Campa-Najjar topped a nine-candidate field in the traditionally conservative 50th Congressional District to advance to the runoff.
"Last night we made history, as the only campaign in 40 years to win an election in this district with a name other than Duncan Hunter,'' Campa- Najjar said, referring to the recently ousted Hunter and his father, with whom he shares a name, who was a representative of the 42nd, 45th and 52nd districts from 1981 to 2009.
"I'm grateful to the thousands of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats who once again voted to elect me as their next congressman. "As the clear frontrunner in the race, I promise to continue to earn the trust of voters by focusing on issues such as the high cost of living; cutting middle class taxes; reducing prescription drug costs; fixing our failed immigration system; supporting our veterans; repairing our roads and mitigating wildfires; and protecting Medicare and Social Security.''
Former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who is seeking to return to the House where he served from 2001-19, will take on Campa-Najjar in November. With nearly all precincts reporting, Issa appeared to outlast fellow Republican Carl DeMaio in the race for second place, albeit by about three percentage points. Issa was cautiously optimistic in his election night comments.
"The last poll before the election had us at six points ahead, so if we count earlier polls saying we were 12 points behind I figure we might finish somewhere around three points ahead,'' he said.
"But I never take anything for granted, especially the voters.'' No other candidate in the race mounted a series challenge, including Republican state Sen. Brian Jones, who ran a distant fourth. Although 10 names appeared on Tuesday's ballot, only nine were actively running. Democrat Marisa Calderon suspended her campaign in January.
The 50th District seat was left vacant following Hunter's guilty plea to misusing $250,000 in campaign funds and subsequent resignation in January. Campa-Najjar -- who ran a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Hunter in 2018 -- was the lone active Democrat on the ballot.
DeMaio, a former San Diego City Councilman, was making his second bid for a House seat, six years after losing to Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, in the 52nd District. Jones, R-Santee, billed himself as "the only candidate with roots in the district, a proven conservative track record and the ability to get things done.''
He is a former assemblyman and Santee councilman. Campa-Najjar, 31, lost to Hunter in 2018 by a margin of 51.7%-48.3%. He was a deputy regional field director for then-President Barack Obama's re- election campaign in 2012, worked at the White House in the executive office of the president and led the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration.
He says on his campaign website that he will work on behalf of residents' "personal health, safety and economic dignity.''
The site says he "is a staunch advocate for unions, for federal investment in apprenticeship jobs and for programs for small businesses owned by minorities, women, immigrants and veterans. His platform also includes reform to the Affordable Care Act, passing a clean Dream Act, investing in renewable energy and overturning Citizens United.''
Issa, 66, was a congressman from 2001 until 2019 in both the 48th and 49th districts. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1998. Issa is a U.S. Army veteran, and achieved the rank of captain while in the Army Reserves from 1976 to 1980.
He holds a bachelor's degree from Kent State University at Stark. Issa lists border protection as one of his top issues, noting on his website, "We must build the wall.'' He also calls for stronger immigration enforcement, including "removing those who have overstayed visas and entered the country on false pretenses.''
He said he will work to counter policies of "sanctuary cities,'' while also vowing to support efforts to challenge unfair trade practices by nations such as China. DeMaio, 45, served on the San Diego City Council from 2008-2012 and hosted a conservative radio talk show before leading his own podcast. He ran for San Diego mayor in 2012 but lost to Bob Filner. He holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University.
He touts his success as a businessman and leadership of the grassroots Reform California group that he says "advocates for government accountability reforms.'' According to his website, DeMaio wants to "shake'' up congress "by advancing a bold, fresh Reform Agenda and recruiting other principled reformers to run for office.''
DeMaio also says he wants to "take back California from the Democrats' super-majority and their socialist agenda.'' The 50th District encompasses most of east San Diego County and a portion of Riverside County. The top two finishers, regardless of party, will advance to the general election. A Republican had held the seat since 1981. It was represented by Hunter's father, Duncan L. Hunter, from 1981-2009.