A handful of candidates on both sides of the aisle are vying to replace Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District, including two Republicans and three Democrats hoping to make a longshot a reality.
The latest poll numbers show Hunter holding a substantial lead with roughly 43 percent of likely voters supporting him, but political insiders say that's actually a low number based on his history in the district.
In the 2016 race against Democrat Patrick Malloy, Hunter won nearly 64 percent of the votes. Two years earlier, he posted a 71-percent majority.
The candidate who finished second to Hunter in polling is a 29-year-old looking to prove age has nothing to do with experience.
"I'm the only candidate running with federal office experience, outside of Duncan Hunter, and also practical business experience, so in those 29 years of life I've packed a whole lot of things,” Democrat challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar told NBC 7.
Campa-Najjar is a proud Latino-Arab American born in the East County.
He worked at the US Department of Labor under the Obama Administration and had a specific focus on employment and training.
He bills himself as the “jobs expert” and says he’ll focus on getting more federal funding for trade school opportunities, which he believes will greatly impact people in his district from Lakeside to Valley Center.
Meanwhile, another candidate making a late push from the left side of the aisle is Josh Butner.
He served 23 years as a Navy SEAL and, since retirement, has gotten involved as a local school board member in the Jamul-Delzura Union School District. If Butner were to secure enough votes to take on Hunter in November, it would make for an interesting run-off between two veterans.
"I would say I have a strong national security background just by the fact I spent 23 years in the SEAL teams, both fighting and studying. I also have two masters’ degrees in national security affairs,” Butner said.
Both Butner and Campa-Najjar stand against President Trump's Border wall and say they'd like to see more clean energy growth in the East County with solar farms.
And don’t forget about Malloy, an East County real estate agent with experience running against Hunter.
For its part, the GOP has endorsed the incumbent for the seat which has been held safely by the party since 1980.
But Hunter, who has been under investigation by federal prosecutors for more than a year and is running under the shadow of possible charges involving the personal use of campaign funds, isn’t a shoe-in. He’ll have to beat out two Republican challengers, including El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, in the open primary race.
Hunter has denied any wrongdoing and has repaid more than $60,000 related to questionable expenses, including food and alcoholic beverages, airfare and hotel stays.
Wells said he’s heard the term “radioactive” applied to the national media attention on Hunter’s campaign, and called the political controversy “awkward.”
‘It's not his seat or my seat. It's not about anybody's seat,” Wells said. “It's the people's seat and I think it's really important that we protect the people living in the district so their ideology is represented in Congress. And I'm afraid that if this drags on and people don't deal with this issue, we're going to see a Democrat who is elected in a very conservative district."
Hunter’s second Republican challenger is Shamus Sayed, a Canadian-born San Dieagan who, according to his website, wants to slash regulations on small businesses.
A five-term incumbent and former major in the Marine Corps Reserves who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hunter is also the son of former Army Ranger Duncan L. Hunter who chaired the House Armed Services Committee during three decades in Congress.