State Sen. Ben Hueso is still projected to win re-election to the 40th State Senate district despite an August arrest for DUI, political analysts told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week. Hueso also faces a lawsuit from political activists, who claim that he misused campaign funds to pay for personal legal expenses.
Hueso is set to face off against Erik Estrada, another Democrat and a local teacher, in November’s midterm election. Estrada is the clear underdog in the race, having raised just $1,000 this year to Hueso’s comparatively staggering $200,000.
However, analysts told the Union-Tribune that the incumbent’s arrest for DUI is not likely to move the needle in a significant way for Estrada, as Hueso enjoys strong name recognition and is well-liked in his district.
“His specific district knows him well,” San Diego political consultant John Dadian told the Union-Tribune. “I don’t see him having any problem in the re-election. The numbers might be a little tighter than expected. That would be the extent of the damage.”
Hueso was arrested in the early morning hours of August 22 on suspicion of DUI after driving the wrong way down a one-way street in a state-owned car in downtown Sacramento. Hueso reportedly registered a 0.08 blood alcohol content level after submitting to a chemical test after his arrest.
Hueso is also facing a lawsuit filed in mid-September from self-described “political activists” alleging that he used funds from his 2010 and 2012 Assembly campaigns to pay for legal expenses related to a failed run for San Diego Unified School Board in 2o05.
Still, Hueso’s front-runner status in the race is so established that he does not even currently have a campaign website.
“I don’t see Ben losing,” political consultant Chris Crotty told the Union-Tribune. “It depends on how it’s framed. An argument could be made to cite those two separate things (the DUI and lawsuit) as a pattern of behavior. I don’t believe that (Hueso) has drawn an opponent that has the ability to run that type of campaign.”
Estrada was quick to criticize Hueso in the report.
“He should be held to a higher standard,” Estrada said. “He helps legislate these laws that he broke.”
The California Teachers Association, one of Hueso’s biggest backers, reiterated its support for the embattled state senator this week.
“CTA’s State Council of Education endorsed him back in March, long before this personal incident happened, and they endorsed him for his proven record and commitment to California’s public schools and colleges,” a CTA spokeswoman told the Union-Tribune.
Hueso collected 71.8 percent of the vote in California’s June 3 primary, to Estrada’s 27.9 percent. The midterm election will be held on November 4, with early voting by mail set to open this week.