SAN DIEGO (CNS) - In a race Democrats are anxious to win to increase their strength in Washington, Republican Diane Harkey grabbed an early lead tonight in the battle to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa, but a Democrat appears bound to challenge her in the November runoff.
Issa opted not to run again for his 49th District seat, causing a flood of 16 candidates to pursue the district, which runs from La Jolla to Dana Point.
Harkey, a state Board of Equalization member, was leading the race with 24.5 percent of the early vote.
Environmental attorney and former Orange County Democratic Party official Mike Levin was running in second place with 16.7 percent of the vote and 29-year-old Sara Jacobs, who conducted foreign affairs work during the Obama Administration, was in third place with 15.3 percent of the vote.
Retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who nearly defeated Issa in 2016, was fourth at 13.3 percent, with just more than 13 percent of precincts reporting.
East in the 50th District, incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter, with 48 percent of the vote, held a commanding lead for the seat he's held since 2009 and that his father, Duncan D. Hunter, held long before that.
The district encompasses much of East County as well as Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center and Escondido.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Department of Labor spokesman, was in second place with 15.2 percent of the vote.
Former Navy SEAL Josh Butner, a Jamul-Dulzura Union school board member, was in third place with 13.7 percent of the vote, though he was nearly tied with Republican El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who holds 13.3 percent of the vote, with 13 percent of precincts reporting.
The top two candidates from each race will face off in the November general election. Democrats hope the 50th District is more vulnerable than in previous years due to an ongoing FBI investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Hunter.