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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly 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