Duncan Hunter, Facing a Federal Indictment, Wins Reelection Bid

A young Democrat loses in one of California’s reddest districts.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) walks out of the San Diego Federal Courthouse after an arraignment hearing on Thursday, August 23, 2018. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. (R-Calif.), a five-term incumbent facing a 60-count federal indictment for a laundry list of campaign finance violations, has held onto his Southern California seat with 54 percent of the vote. His opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 29-year-old Palestinian/Mexican-American businessman, had received 46 percent of the vote at the time networks called the race.

For almost 40 years, a Hunter—first Duncan Sr., then Duncan Jr.—has won every election and reelection bid in California’s 50th District by as much as 30 points, easily besting Democratic opponents by tapping into one of the state’s most reliably conservative voting blocks. In 2016, President Trump bested Hillary Clinton by 15 points, and Hunter was reelected by a margin of 27 percentage points. But this year was different. After Hunter and his wife were charged with stealing more than $250,000 in campaign funds for their personal use in August, he started dropping in the polls.

Launched into the national spotlight, Campa-Najjar steadily gained support, even as Hunter’s campaign launched a series of attacks and ads suggesting that he was a “radical” Muslim trying to “infiltrate” Congress. (Campa-Najjar is Christian.) The move alienated some lifelong Republicans, like Nancy Clancey, an 87-year-old San Marcos resident who told me last week that she had voted for the Hunters since 1980. “I’ve been a Republican all my life,” she said. But after reading about Hunter’s indictment, and then being impressed by Campa-Najjar, she said, “I decided this is the time I’m going independent,” she says. “I’m not going to be forced to vote for people I don’t believe in.”

But “leaners” like Clancey weren’t enough for Campa-Najjar to clear the overwhelming Republican voter advantage in the 50th. Hunter is due back in federal court on December 3.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.