Darrell Issa gets Democratic challenger ahead of 2022

Darrell Issa gets Democratic challenger ahead of 2022
© Greg Nash

Military veteran Joseph Rocha on Monday announced that he is challenging GOP Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Dozens of Sacramento students remain in Afghanistan after US pullout, district says Seven San Diego-area families evacuated from Afghanistan after summer trip abroad MORE in California's 50th District ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Rocha’s campaign released an over two-minute-long announcement video detailing parts of his background, including his experience of being honorably discharged from the Navy after he revealed to his commander he was gay. Rocha, a Democrat, went on to speak out against the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy before becoming a Marine Corps captain.

“All of my story is my dedication to the Constitution,” Rocha, a former Marine prosecutor, told The Hill. “We have a congressman who’s not listening to people who are struggling in this district and voted against the recovery when they needed it more and also voted against certifying a valid election and an investigation into Jan. 6 although he swore to protect the Constitution,” he continued. 

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The Democratic candidate said jobs and infrastructure were among his campaign platform’s top priorities. Rocha said he “absolutely” supports raising the minimum wage to $15, but on the issue of "Medicare for All," he said he would like to focus on a “different approach that focuses on expanding affordability and access." 

Rocha said that he would like to work to “prioritize a climate solution that creates jobs for the district,” but did not say definitively whether he supports the progressive Green New Deal. 

“I am less interested in what it’s called and more interested in what it does,” he said. 

Rocha joins a growing field of Republicans and Democrats looking to challenge Issa. Former Santee City, Calif., Councilmember Stephen Houlahan, urgent care nurse Mari Barosay and Timothy Bilash are among the Democrats running. Former Escondido, Calif., Mayor Sam Abed is challenging Issa from the GOP side of the aisle. 

Any Democrat running in the district will face an uphill challenge against Issa in the right-leaning district. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the district as R+8, meaning the district voted Republican 8 percentage points more than the country as a whole. Issa defeated Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar with 54 percent of the vote in last year’s election. 

Issa, who is an Army veteran, was elected to represent California’s 50th District in 2020. He previously represented the 48th District from 2001 to 2003 and the 49th District from 2003 to 2018. He served as the chairman of the influential House Oversight Committee from 2011 to 2015.