Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter defeated Democrat challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar in California’s 50th congressional district on Tuesday, overcoming a massive disadvantage in funding and the hostility of the media.
The solidly Republican district became more competitive after Hunter and his wife were indicted over the summer on federal charges of mis-using campaign funds (Hunter insists that he is innocent and the charges are politically motivated). Campa-Najjar, however, suffered from exposés that noted his grandfather was a senior Palestinian terrorist who helped carry out the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
The media, both local and national, branded Hunter’s campaign racist after he targeted Campa-Najjar’s family history and the fact that he accepted donations from a controversial Muslim group and a Palestinian ambassador.
Campa-Najjar, a trained communications professional, ran a smooth and energetic campaign, working very hard to turn out his supporters and to reach across the aisle to Republican voters. He benefited from celebrity endorsements, including Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, both of whom canvassed for him. Hunter kept a low profile throughout the campaign and did not open campaign offices in the district.
In the closing days of the race, Hunter emphasized border issues, holding a press conference on the U.S.-Mexico border to propose that the U.S. military, sent by President Donald Trump to help intercept the migrant “caravan” from Central America, should build the “foundational road” along the future path of the president’s border wall.
That event focused on the top issue to Republican voters — immigration — and seems to have made a difference.
Update: Hunter issued a statement Wednesday morning:
The voters of California’s 50th Congressional District have once again made it clear that their issues and priorities are consistent with my issues and priorities as their Representative in Congress. This election reflects what is important to us here in San Diego and Riverside Counties, issues on which President Trump has had success, but understanding that there is undoubtedly more work to be done. For 10 years, I have consistently and unapologetically focused on rebuilding the military, protecting the border, which includes a border wall, cutting taxes, supporting our veterans, creating small business jobs and economic development, upholding the 2nd Amendment and protecting the sanctity of life. I am proud of this record and I intend to make it business-as-usual in working with President Trump for the next two years to achieve more success, especially given the challenge of having a Democrat-led House. I thank my constituents for their continued trust and support and I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to continue serving them in Congress.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.