SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Rep. Duncan Hunter’s name will stay on the November ballot despite a federal indictment, but a local political expert said the charges against him could be the opening Democrats need to claim the 50th District.
On Tuesday, the San Diego-based congressman and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of misusing campaign funds.
Hunter told 10News in an exclusive interview Wednesday morning that he is innocent and said the charges come from “a politically motivated group of folks.”
The investigation was not enough to deter voters from supporting Hunter in the June primary, as he easily claimed victory over Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar -- 47 percent of the vote for Hunter and 17 percent for Campa-Najjar.
However, local political consultant Laura Fink said she believes fallout from the indictment may give Campa-Najjar a chance to close the gap or even win the race.
“We know that district is deeply red, and the only way for an opponent to have a chance would be if such a scandal would come down,” Fink told 10News. “This has the potential to be the death knell for Duncan Hunter’s career in Congress and the perfect storm for his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar.”
Fink said a recent generic ballot showed the two candidates “neck-and-neck,” adding, “It got close before this indictment … With Republicans having less energy in their turnout, it gives Campa-Najjar a real shot at this.”
Fink told 10News Hunter’s troubles could have national implications for the Republican Party as they attempt to maintain control of the House.
“This district shouldn’t even be on the map as a pickup for the Democrats, but it is,” Fink said.
According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Hunter’s name will remain on the ballot for the November general election. Removal is not allowed under California law, the Registrar of Voters said.
If Hunter were to resign from office prior to the November election, the Registrar of Voters said his name would still be on the ballot.
The Registrar of Voters also said write-in candidates are not allowed for the general election. They were allowed for the primary election, however.
“[Hunter] cannot resign, his name will remain on the ballot. There’s no chance for a write-in campaign. Republicans are stuck with Duncan Hunter,” Fink said. “It’s the deceit that voters will evaluate come fall.”