Democrats are eyeing what they see as the potential for a major pickup in November with retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate facing off against longtime Republican incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa for his seat in the House of Representatives.
Both men have served in the U.S. military, a pertinent fact given southern California’s Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton lies within Issa’s district.
California’s 49th congressional district has been a safe seat for Republicans, based on favorable voter registration statistics. Issa first won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. The district spans portions of San Diego County and, in smaller part, Orange County. Issa’s last eight elections have seen near 30 percentage point wins, on average.
Applegate advocates for amnesty for illegal aliens, and his website states, “U.S. mandatory sentencing laws and resulting incarceration rates are immoral, racist, and socially destructive.” He states opposition to a “fast track” for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but his website does not state actual opposition from the candidate to the highly secretive trade deal.
The Democrat’s Veterans Affairs statement gives a very general statement of fixing the problems with the agency, expressing that as a military veteran he “understand the struggles” of veterans and will “advocate for our veteran community, and work to streamline access to a more patient-oriented healthcare system…”. He also states his support for Obamacare and working on its “flaws.” In addressing foreign policy on his website, Applegate refers to combatting “radical violent extremism,” even speaking of the 9/11 Islamic terror attack on the U.S., but leaves out the words Islam and terrorism.
Applegate is claiming he did nothing in the primary election and that his percentage of the vote was due merely to what he called Issa’s “negatives,” according to the Los Angeles Times. He also went after Issa on global warming: “He’s still a climate change denier,” said Applegate, who said his party believes in science.
Meanwhile Applegate has been busy fending of reports that during divorce proceedings with his now ex-wife, he was accused of harassing, stalking and threatening her, according to the Times. Issa’s campaign raised questions over the public records and Applegate attempted to squelch them with rebuttal and a statement from his ex-wife. He is twice divorced and has two children, according to the Times. He now lives with a girlfriend and his teen daughter in San Clemente.
Issa told the Times that he expects to spend more time publicizing major legislation he has been a part of passing, and issues he has worked across the aisle on. He called such activity “probably appropriate,” and acknowledged he hasn’t done so in years.
The longtime legislator has recently been actively campaigning in his district and held a San Clemente event to discuss giving more control to local governments over where sober-living homes can be placed through federal legislation. The Times also reported on Issa’s endorsement of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) against Democrat California Attorney General Kamala Harris in the state’s Democrat-on-Democrat competition to replace retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
The 49th congressional district is comprised of 39.5 percent Republican registered voters, and 31.27 percent Democratic voters. Over 24 percent were registered “no party preference,” and the remainder were registered with other parties in percentages of no more than 3.24 percent.
Issa received 50.8 percent of the vote in California’s June 7 primary election. Applegate received 45.5 percent, and no party preference candidate Ryan Glenn Wingo received 3.7 percent. Under California’s top two jungle primary system, only Issa and Applegate move on to the November 8 general election ballot.
Issa will face off against Applegate down ticket from the contentious presidential battle between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Democratic political consultant Laura Find was cited in the Times asserting that a “strong political allegiance with Donald Trump” could hurt the longtime House Republican. Issa backed Sen. Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination early in the process, until the Florida Senator dropped out. Issa has been very critical of Trump, and in February encouraged Republicans to unite behind another candidate. In early May, Trump’s last major competitor for the Republican nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz, dropped out of the race for the presidency. Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out shortly thereafter. Issa endorsed Trump thereafter, as California political insider James Lacey announced on Fox Business Network’s Varney and Company the day after Kasich dropped from the race.
Applegate’s website lists unions and Democratic organizations as his most important endorsers. Last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it would support his bid to beat Issa, according to the Times. He will receive financial and strategic help after being added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program. Donors will be pitched to help him as well.
Applegate’s campaign had raised just $53,000 leading up to the June 7 primary election, according to the Federal Election Commission, but received $130,000 in from May 19 to June 30. His campaign has spent just over $50,000. Issa has outspent his challenger with disbursements of over $700,000 between January 2015 and June 30, 2016.
It remains to be seen just how much financial support the Democrats will put into the race in support of Applegate for a district that favors Republicans and carries a significant no party preference voter registration contingent.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana