Hoping for an upset in one of California’s most conservative congressional districts, Democratic Candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar faced frustration from the left this week after an interview with a right-wing group.
“We have 28 more days, and what am I doing?” Campa-Najjar asked Defend East County Founder Justin Haskins during a Facebook live stream last week.
“I’m talking to the people at Defend East County!” the Democrat proclaimed, promising more town halls and sit-downs with the group.
But there may not be more to come.
The 50th district is a conservative district, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats by over 40,000 registered voters. And in order to beat Republican Darrell Issa in November, Campa-Najjar has said he will need Republican support.
So in an effort to reach across the aisle, Campa-Najjar did a lengthy sit-down interview with Haskins for the 22,000+ member conservative group known by some as DEC.
The group has drawn criticism for promoting racism and violence. It was formed at the beginning of the summer to protect property in the wake of the La Mesa protests following George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
And Campa-Najjar’s participation in the Facebook event and some of things he said, frustrated some local Democrats.
“My vote’s still open, you guys think I’m going to vote for Biden—not necessarily. I still want to see how they perform at the debate,” said Campa-Najjar when asked if he supports President Donald Trump’s reelection or his Democratic challenger Former Vice President Joe Biden
“It was disappointing,” Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party Will Rodriguez-Kennedy told NBC 7 in an interview. Rodriguez-Kennedy said while he did not agree with parts of what Campa-Najjar said, he was more troubled by the candidate appearing at all at this forum.
“It’s one thing to reach out to Republicans, Democrats do that. We reach out to non-party preference, we reach out to Republicans. But to reach out to white supremacists is the line that we draw in the sand,” said the Democratic chair.
“My intention was to reach across the aisle, that’s what I’ve always done,” explained Campa-Najjar in an interview with NBC 7, saying he knew primarily of the group’s charity work. He condemned white supremacy and violence.
“Anybody who is violent, who is an individual or former individual of DEC, Defend East County, will have no safe harbor in my congressional office,” the candidate said.
Campa-Najjar pointed out his opponent former Congressman Issa also participated in a DEC livestream this week, criticizing comments the Republican made about "Black Lives Matter" and loosely organized anti-fascists known as "Antifa."
“These organizations have not only been doing destruction but they’ve been empowering them, because that is part of their agenda,” Issa told the group’s founder.
“Darrell Issa just said the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, the whole movement, anyone who believes we need racial justice in this country, is a criminal inciting violence and dangerous and trying to take away your freedoms. And I think that’s at best, an overstatement of what’s happening,” said Campa-Najjar.
Issa declined to comment for this story, and the Defend East County founder maintains his group is not racist or violent.
Campa-Najjar noted since the Facebook event, he has cast his vote for Biden.