Update 11:30 p.m.: Darrell Issa has taken the lead with 60.7% of votes tallied. In San Diego County, Issa has 51.8% or 116,784 votes. Campa-Najjar has 48.8% or 111,412 votes. This does not include south Riverside County, which skews more conservative.
By Kendra Sitton
November 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- The race to replace Representative Duncan Hunter is shaping up to be a close election that will likely not be called until the final votes are counted after Nov. 20.
As of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar has a razor-slim lead over Republican Darrell Issa. With results from both Riverside and San Diego, they are within 2,000 votes of each other, a less than 1% margin.
The two are dueling to fill the seat held by the Hunter family for the past four decades.
Campa-Najjar ran against Duncan Hunter in 2018 when the then-Congressman was facing a major scandal for misusing campaign funds for personal expenses. Hunter resigned earlier this year after pleading guilty to those charges. Even with that scandal in his favor and a blue wave that led to a Democrat majority in the house, Campa-Najjar still narrowly lost. Two years later he ran again in hopes of flipping the conservative stronghold blue. It was a long shot, but certainly higher turnout, changing demographics in East County cities and backlash to President Trump helped him.
This time around, he faced Darrell Issa. Former Representative Issa was previously in the House of Representatives for 18 years before retiring in 2018 as his former district became more blue. He was once the richest member of Congress and as Chair of the House Oversight Committee led many investigations into President Obama. He positioned himself as a strong ally of President Trump and supports building a border wall
Campa-Najjar has the opposite relationship with our past and current presidents. He worked for the Obama administration in public affairs and has criticized President Trump in the past.
After losing the election last time, he positioned himself as a more moderate Democrat and even tried appealing to the right in the last few weeks by appearing in a video with leaders of the group Defend East County, which has since been removed from Facebook for racism and threats of violence. Issa also appealed to the group although he faced less backlash since he is a Republican.
In an interview with East County Magazine on election night, Campa-Najjar said his values of putting the people of this district first have not changed. He emphasized putting country over party and reaching across the aisle to address major issues.
Even as Campa-Najjar tried a new campaign strategy, Issa has significantly more money than Campa-Najjar in the race, including $4 million of his own funds.
Interestingly, both men have Middle Eastern roots. If elected, Campa-Najjar would be the first Latino Arab in congress. If Issa is elected, he would add diversity to Republicans’ ranks.