Ex-Obama official advances in bid to unseat California Republican
Former Obama administration official Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) is projected to advance through California’s 50th Congressional District primary, setting him up to face off against embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Campa-Najjar had been locked in a tough fight with former Navy SEAL Josh Butner (D) in California’s “jungle primary” system, in which the top two candidates advance, regardless of party.
Hunter had been favored for the first slot, thanks to his name recognition, even though he faces an FBI investigation into whether he misused campaign funds. He joined Congress in 2009, succeeding his father, Duncan Hunter Sr., who served 27 years in the House.
That left the more progressive Campa-Najjar and the more moderate Butner jockeying for the second spot.
Butner had initially been seen by many in Washington as the favorite among Democrats, part of the party’s push to recruit veterans to compete in moderate districts. But Campa-Najjar ran a strong campaign and won the backing of the district’s delegates to the California Democratic Party, giving his campaign a boost.
The race turned contentious in the final stretch as Butner pointed to earlier quotes in which Campa-Najjar said he’d be willing to work with President Trump. But Campa-Najjar pushed back on that framing and hit Butner for voting in Republican primaries in the past.
Democrats are hopeful Hunter is beatable, even in a district that Trump won by 15 points in 2016, due to his high-profile ethics woes.
The Justice Department is looking into allegations he misused his campaign funds after a slew of reports cataloging a series of odd expenditures made from his campaign account. Hunter has reimbursed his campaign tens of thousands of dollars for various personal expenses on things such as trips, hotels, groceries and restaurants. The most eye-popping expense is a $600 payment to fly the family rabbit.
Hunter’s team has argued that the payments were simply oversights, but his Democratic opponents have keyed in on the investigation in an effort to taint Hunter’s reputation. They’ve also pointed to Hunter’s lackluster fundraising figures as proof that his campaign is sputtering.
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