As Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Indicted) is drawing national headlines for his jaw-dropping comments appearing to admit to war crimes and waits for his Federal criminal trial to begin in September for wire fraud and misusing campaign funds, Rep. Hunter claims he has “NO” concerns regarding his reelection.
BUT as was reported by CNN late last week, that is not what local members of San Diego’s GOP and political class are seeing and saying:
“Former Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn has filed paperwork to run in the 50th district, a move he describes as exploratory while he watches the developments in Hunter’s federal trial. Some Republican officials are also encouraging well-known NewsRadio host and former city councilman Carl DeMaio to run for Hunter’s seat.”
With former Temecula Mayor and GOP Primary Candidate for CA-50, Matt Rahn going on to say, that “he is concerned that the 50th District […] lost its voice in Congress after Hunter was removed from his committees” citing “the district’s federal funding needs.”
Local political commentator and chair of the political science department at UC San Diego, Thad Kousser, said the 2018 result showed how deeply the corruption charges have damaged Hunter:
“Even given the indictment and all of the scandal surrounding him, I was shocked at how narrowly Representative Hunter won in 2018 […] That result clearly announced this as one of the few remaining red seats in California that Democrats have a chance of taking in 2020, and the Hunter trial this fall will certainly shape the dynamics of that race…”
Read more about Hunter’s diminishing reelection prospects below or here.
Maeve Reston // 06.06.19
There are few sitting members of Congress who seem more willing to risk their reelection prospects than Duncan D. Hunter, the rebel from east San Diego County who represents the strongest Republican district in California.
Last year, House leaders stripped Hunter of his committee assignments while he awaits a September trial with his wife on charges of alleged wire fraud, conspiracy to commit crimes against the US, falsification of records, prohibited use of campaign contributions, aiding and abetting — charges they deny. More recently, Hunter made a series of jaw-dropping comments about his own conduct — including taking a photo with a dead enemy combatant — as a Marine while championing the defense of former Navy SEAL Edward “Eddie” Gallagher. Gallagher, who has pleaded not guilty, is facing trial next week for charges that amount to war crimes and is under consideration for a pardon by President Donald Trump.
Still, the latest controversy does not seem to have harmed Hunter’s reputation in his district — many voters were not even aware that he made them.
When asked in a CNN telephone interview this week whether he was concerned that his upcoming trial and his blunt comments about his conduct on the battlefield would harm his reelection chances, Hunter answered in one word: “No.”
Asked about his recent assertion that he and his fellow soldiers probably killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians, including women and children as a result of artillery fire, Hunter underscored that he never targeted civilians. He said he was simply offering an unvarnished view of what he witnessed on the battlefield during two combat tours in Iraq.
“Between 2003 and 2010, you had massive conflicts. You had door-to-door fighting; you had artillery; you had lots of bombs being dropped,” Hunter said. “I’m getting the exact numbers, so you guys can have that and talk about the thousands, and thousands, and thousands of civilian deaths — but that’s a byproduct of combat. Period. It’s not a sanitary thing. It’s not the movies.”
“I didn’t say I targeted any civilians,” he said, referring to his controversial interview with the “Zero Blog Thirty: Barstool’s Military Division” podcast. “I said that there were hundreds, if not scores of civilians killed, in our artillery in and around Fallujah,” Hunter said. “I think that’s absolutely correct and that’s a byproduct of war, period.”
Defending his reliably Republican seat during the 2018 midterm campaign, Hunter ran the most brazenly anti-Muslim campaign ads in the country by attempting to portray his Democratic opponent, a Christian who is the son of a Mexican-American mother and Palestinian father, as a national security threat. At one point during the campaign, Hunter sent literature billed as a “security alert” that drew attention to Campa-Najjar’s Middle Eastern roots and the potential “dangers” of electing him to Congress.
Taking a page from Trump by railing against “the deep state” and what he describes as a corrupt Department of Justice, Hunter narrowly defeated Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in a much closer race than expected in their congressional district, which covers much of northern and eastern San Diego County.
In the midst of a blue wave that flipped seven of the most competitive House seats in the California, Hunter won with 51.7% of the vote to Campa-Najjar’s 48.3%.
By comparison, in 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 50th Congressional district by 15 points. That same year, Hunter beat his Democratic opponent 63.5% to 36.5%.
Thad Kousser, who chairs the political science department at UC San Diego, said the 2018 result showed how deeply the corruption charges have damaged Hunter politically.
“Even given the indictment and all of the scandal surrounding him, I was shocked at how narrowly Representative Hunter won in 2018 in such a safely Republican district,” Kousser said. “That result clearly announced this as one of the few remaining red seats in California that Democrats have a chance of taking in 2020, and the Hunter trial this fall will certainly shape the dynamics of that race and even who will be running.”
Former Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn has filed paperwork to run in the 50th district, a move he describes as exploratory while he watches the developments in Hunter’s federal trial. Some Republican officials are also encouraging well-known NewsRadio host and former city councilman Carl DeMaio to run for Hunter’s seat.
Rahn said in an interview that he is concerned that the 50th District, which covers much of inland San Diego County, lost its voice in Congress after Hunter was removed from his committees. He cited the district’s federal funding needs — including alleviating congestion on the I-15 corridor and mitigating the risks of brush fires across the district — as a top reason he would run for Hunter’s seat.
In interviews last week, many voters in the 50th District had not heard anything about Hunter’s recent admission that he, like Gallagher, had taken a picture with a dead enemy combatant. Even though the comments made national news, many voters said they were not familiar with Hunter’s background at all, or the federal corruption charges that he is facing.
Before the election last year, the accusations that Hunter misused campaign funds seemed more top of mind for voters. In interviews with dozens of voters in the 50th district, many Republicans and independents said they were uncomfortable with the charges against Hunter — and the fact that he had suggested his wife was to blame for the inappropriate spending on the campaign credit card.
But many voters also told CNN they wanted to preserve the presumption of innocence and see the trial play out. Often, they said they would vote for Hunter anyway in 2018 because they viewed their vote more as a show of support for Trump and keeping the US House under Republican control.