Ammar Campa-Najjar is one of three Democrats challenging five-time incumbent Duncan Hunter for his congressional seat in the 50th District, which includes Lakeside, Poway, Ramona, La Mesa and Spring Valley.
The 50th is a traditionally red district, which has been held by Hunter and his father, Duncan Lee Hunter, who served 14 terms.
Still, Campa-Najjar is optimistic about his chances. “We flipped Alabama,” he told Politically Speaking. “If we can flip Alabama we can flip the 50th, right? But this district went for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the biggest city in our district, which counts for 30 percent of the electorate, voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election in 2016. It’s about turnout in the end. And look, after four decades of one dynasty, people just want fresh leadership and a new face.”
Campa-Najjar, 29, earned the California Democratic Party’s endorsement and says his is the first campaign in 40 years to outraise the Hunter campaign.
"The wind is at our backs,” he said. “We’re doing it all through individual contributions and the collections of contributions of working people. So we’ve gotten a lot of support on the ground and I think if we can turn out young people, minorities, women, lifelong Democrats and even some Republicans, we can flip this seat. Nothing lasts forever and people are fed up.”
Campa-Najjar, who is a Latino Arab American, was born in San Diego but spent time in Gaza and Palestine before moving back. He worked as a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and was a director of communications for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of people are excited,” he said. “They’re excited a Latino Arab American is running for Congress in the Trump era.”
But he’s not fixated on the president. “I’m not just the opposition party candidate,” he said. “I don’t care about attacking Trump. It’s about being the opportunity party and being the party that stands up for the majority in our district.”
He said he blames Hunter for high unemployment in the district. “They’ve been around for 40 years and that’s happened under their watch and people are tired of it.”
Hunter is facing his own challenge – an investigation into possible improper use of campaign funds. But Campa-Najjar said he wants to focus on what’s important to the voters in his district.
“They care about their personal health, they care about their personal safety and the safety of their children with what’s been happening across the country and they care about their personal financial dignity,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to focus on in my race, not the mudslinging that’s going around.”
He said we need comprehensive immigration reform and infrastructure reform. “I’m going to hold the president’s feet to the fire. He said that he wanted to work on infrastructure; he said that he wanted to work on jobs; he said he wanted to work on fair trade. If he wants to do it, let’s do it the right way. Let’s do it together. If not, you know what? We’ll get him out of office in 2020, but he better get the job done for the people who voted for him.
He said his step-dad voted for Trump and is disappointed in the job he’s done.
“People are tired of the chaos, the hostility, the division; that’s not what they vote for people to do. They want someone who can get the job done and do an honest day’s work like they do every single day.”
Campa-Najjar will face off against Hunter and five other candidates (two Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent) on June 5.