SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Democrat Ammar-Campa Najjar and Republican Darrell Issa have emerged as the favorites to represent East County's 50th Congressional District, according to a scientific poll released Tuesday.
The 10News/Union-Tribune scientific poll comes one week before the March primary, in which voters will head to the polls for the first time since Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter resigned in January after pleading guilty to one count of felony campaign fraud.
The poll, of 552 likely voters, shows Campa-Najjar, the lone household Democrat, leading the field with 35 percent of the vote. Former Congressman Issa, a Republican, comes in second with 21 percent, with former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio at 15 percent. The poll had 12 percent undecided and State Sen. Brian Jones, a Republican, at 7 percent.
The poll's margin of error was 5.2 percent.
"While the other candidates are focused on fighting each other, I’ve been focused on fighting for voters since day one and the results speak for themselves," Campa-Najjar said in a statement. "As the only leading candidate who is from the district, I’m confident that we will outperform in the primary and go on to win the general election."
The top-two votegetters, regardless of party, make it to the November runoff. That's why Campa-Najjar has avoided attack ads this primary season.
The bigger fight, instead, is between Republicans - Issa and DeMaio. The two have been hitting each other hard over who is more loyal to President Trump.
Those attacks continued Friday. In a statement, Issa spokesman Greg Blair took aim at DeMaio and said he's not loyal to the president.
“Carl DeMaio’s support continues to drop as voters learn he’s a pro-abortion Never Trumper who supports sanctuary city policies, and that Darrell Issa is the only candidate in the race who will help President Trump enact his MAGA agenda," Blair said.
In response, DeMaio's campaign released its own poll, showing DeMaio leading Issa in the primary, 22 percent to 17 percent.
“The 10News/SurveyUSA poll released today is not consistent with the Remington Poll from this weekend showing DeMaio as the leading Republican candidate with 22% and Issa at 17% - and the amazing support we are seeing on the ground for Carl DeMaio," said spokesman Dave McCulloch. "Voters see through Darrell Issa’s lies and know Issa is the pro-Amnesty career politician who has repeatedly betrayed President Trump.”
While Campa-Najjar leads in the primary poll, there are more voters choosing Republicans on the ticket. That could make for a challenge in November, when it will likely be one Republican versus one Democrat.
Still, Casey Dominguez, a political science professor at the University of San Diego, said a large turnout makes it more unpredictable.
"This is a Republican leaning seat," she said. "This would always be a hard seat for the Democrats to win, but Ammar Campa-Najjar came really close last time, and his name recognition is better this time."
In a statement, Jones said he will continue to push for the seat, no matter the polling.
“The polls have been all over the place," he said. "I've been an underdog before, but voters of this district have elected me 6 times. Voters tell me they are tired of the mud slinging and appreciate my traditional values platform."
The seat in the House of Representatives is currently vacant, with Hunter scheduled to be sentenced in March.