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Former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio announces bid for Duncan Hunter's congressional seat

In a statement announcing his candidacy for the 50th Congressional District seat, DeMaio framed the decision to run as one of "fight or flight."
Credit: AP
Republican congressional candidate in the 52nd district, Carl DeMaio, talks about the his campaign while addressing the media with his final thoughts on election eve Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

SAN DIEGO — Former San Diego City Councilman and Reform California Chairman Carl DeMaio announced his intent Monday to enter the race for the only Republican-held congressional seat in San Diego County.

In a statement announcing his candidacy for the 50th Congressional District seat, DeMaio framed the decision to run as one of "fight or flight." He also lambasted the state's Democratic dominance, arguing the state has shifted to the left in an untenable way.

"Too many Californians are fleeing our state because of the extreme socialist agenda being imposed on us by Democrat politicians, but I refuse to flee: I choose to stand and fight," DeMaio said. "In California, voters have mostly only been given two choices: socialists or ineffective cowards."

The 50th District seat is currently represented by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who was indicted last August, along with his wife, on five dozen criminal charges, including conspiracy, wire fraud and record falsification, for allegedly misusing campaign funds. Margaret Hunter has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is cooperating with prosecutors. Her husband maintains his innocence.

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Hunter won a sixth term last November, defeating Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar with 51.7% of the vote. The path to a seventh term appears more fraught for Hunter, whose trial is slated to begin Sept. 10 in federal court.

With rumors of a possible resignation swirling, a cluster of Republican politicians have announced plans to run for the seat in the event Hunter foregoes a run or cannot legally run in 2020.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn, former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and former U.S. Navy SEAL Larry Wilske have all joined the race as Republicans. Former Rep. Darrell Issa, who declined a re-election run in the 49th District in 2018, could also join the race.

Campa-Najjar, meanwhile, essentially never stopped campaigning after losing last year and is likely to have a war chest prepared for another attempt to flip the seat.

"More than half a dozen Republicans are now eyeing a challenge against me for CA-50," the Campa-Najjar campaign said in a statement last Friday. "This is an internal battle that party elites will have to figure out amongst themselves."

In previous challenges for major office, DeMaio lost to Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, in 2014 and to Bob Filner in the 2012 race for San Diego mayor. DeMaio was also the leader of a failed attempt to repeal the state's gas tax in 2018.

The California primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020.