In a primary that is getting national attention, incumbent Duncan Hunter is ahead in a new poll that came out last week conducted by 10News/San Diego Union-Tribune.
Hunter, a Republican who has represented the 50th District for five terms polled at 43 percent. In second, is Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar. The 29-year-old Latino Arab American is polling at 10 percent. He’s received the Democratic party’s endorsement and said he's feeling good about his chances. “The wind is at our backs,” he told Politically Speaking’s Gene Cubbison last month.
The 50th is a traditionally red district. Before Hunter was elected in 2009, his father Duncan Hunter, Sr. served the district for 14 terms starting in 1981. In the 2016 presidential election, the district voted 55 percent for Trump and 40 percent for Hillary Clinton.
In the last year, however, Hunter’s record as a congressman has been overshadowed by a federal investigation into of tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds.
Hunter has repaid $60,000 to his campaign for a long list of questionable expenses that included video games, groceries, family vacations and a trip to Italy, bars, liquor stores and airfare for a pet rabbit. Hunter has attributed the expenses to mistakes.
In the poll, 40 percent of respondents said the investigation will have no effect on their vote, but 32 percent said it would have a major impact.
Dr. Casey Dominguez is a professor of Political Science at the University of San Diego who studies campaigns. “I think what sticks out is in a district like this, you really shouldn't see the incumbent sub 50 percent,” she said about the polling.
In the poll, the president's approval rating came in at 55 percent, while Hunter polled at 50 percent.
“What was interesting to me is that Donald Trump's approval rating in the district in this poll was at 55 percent, which is pretty normal for a district like this,” she added. “The incumbent was less popular than the president.”
Out of six issues listed in the poll, respondents said how well the president is doing (29 percent) was the most important factor in determining who they would vote for. The border wall was second at 19 percent and the economy was a close third at 17 percent. DACA, the new tax law and health care didn’t reach double digits.
The top two vote-getters in the June 5th primary will advance to the general election in November, regardless of party. And if the polling holds, it may be a race between Hunter and Campa-Najjar.
To advance to the general, Dominguez said Campa-Najjar will need to activate “people who don’t usually turn out to vote, and that’s something Democrats around the country have been able to do this year.”
A spokesperson for Hunter’s campaign told NBC 7, “He runs every race as [if] it were his first race and will continue to do so regardless of his opponent or his standing in the polls. Voters from our district have a 10-year voting record by Congressman Hunter in which they can review and determine for themselves if it fits their values.”
A spokesman for Campa-Najjar’s campaign gave NBC 7 a statement that said, “I’m humbled by the trust voters have placed in our efforts to challenge Duncan Hunter, Jr … I intend to spend the next 12 days before the June 5th primary as I’ve spent the last 15 months, earning the support of voters across East County, Escondido, San Marcos and Temecula.”
The poll has a five-point margin of error.