Sept. 3, 2019 — Ex-California US Rep. Darrell Issa, who represented the state’s 49th CD for 18 years, just filed a new congressional exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. But he is not looking to run in his former seat. Rather, the exploratory committee is organized to survey his chances of winning the adjacent 50th CD, the district that indicted Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) currently represents.
This congressional district’s political soap opera continues to unfold. Hunter is facing a trial after the first of next year to defend himself against campaign finance charges, certain ones for which his estranged wife and former campaign manager have already negotiated a plea agreement with the government. And, with the early March 3 state primary scheduled concurrently with the presidential Super Tuesday vote, candidates are already announcing their intentions.
Anticipating that the court case will go against the congressman, five Republicans have announced their candidacies. And, with the trial now postponed until after the first of the year (it was originally scheduled for mid-September) there is a strong chance that Rep. Hunter will file for re-election before the state’s Dec. 6 candidate filing deadline. Should Issa decide to enter the race, then at least seven Republicans will be competing.
So many are coming forward because the 50th is one of the safest Republican seats in California, a state that now has a congressional delegation of 46 Democrats and just seven Republicans. However, quite possibly, and largely due to the state’s jungle primary law, the seat could fall into Democratic hands under a very realistic scenario.
Under California law, similar to the system in Louisiana and Washington, all candidates appear on the primary ballot regardless of political party affiliation. In the California process, the top two finishers in the first election, which is in reality a qualifying election as opposed to a partisan primary, advance to the general election.
Because there will be seven Republicans or more on the ballot and, at this point, just one Democrat — 2018 nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar, who posted 48.3 percent of the vote against Hunter — Campa-Najjar’s chances of advancing to the general election are quite favorable.