Four Republican hopefuls for the 50th Congressional District squared off in a head-to-head debate in front of more than a thousand people Monday night in Mission Valley.
State Senator Brian Jones (R-38), Former Congressman Darrell Issa, conservative radio host Carl DeMaio and incumbent U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter took the stage to debate everything from immigration, to the Second Amendment, to working with President Donald Trump.
Failing to reach a two-thirds majority vote, the San Diego County GOP did not make a formal endorsement for the district Monday.
The indicted Hunter argued that he is the best candidate for the job.
"I've won this seat in the worst of times. I'm still fighting from this seat. I'm still fighting for you," he told the crowd of Republicans while seated next to three other candidates.
Hunter's trial on corruption charges is scheduled to begin on Jan. 22, a little more than a month before California's primary election in March.
Hunter called the 2016 race for the 50th District a "bloodbath," and criticized some of his 2020 opponents for entering the race for a district they don’t live in.
"I'm not going to move somewhere and fight for the easy seat. As a U.S. Marine, we stand up and fight," he said.
He said working with President Trump wouldn’t be a challenge because he’s already tackled key agenda issues alongside the president, like bolstering the border wall and freeing U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who faced court-martial on war crimes this summer.
DeMaio said the president needs a Republican Congress, and vowed to stand with him on issues like border security and immigration.
DeMaio called himself a "button pusher," and said he’d be the type of congressman to lead grassroots campaign and stand alongside his constituents in the sun.
"It's not about saving just one seat, it’s about saving the state of California on the brink of socialism," he said.
Senator Jones said if elected he would continue his fight against the "grotesque" movement in Sacramento aimed at making it easier to get an abortion.
Jones told voters he grew up in the 50th District saying, "We were Trump before Trump was Trump."
Issa reminded voters that he’s done the job – he represented District 49 from 2003 to 2019 – and touted his “stellar voting record.”
He also said the country needs more of the Second Amendment, not less of it, to stop current violent trends.
All four candidates shared similar opinions on abortion.
"Life is a gift from God from beginning to end," Issa said. "Every life is precious, even the terminally ill, and we need to protect those lives because we don’t know the value they'll have until the very end."
The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the general election in November.