Update November 28, 2018: Statewide, Hunter's lead has slipped further. Hunter now leads by 3.6%, with 51.8% to Campa-Najjar with 48.2%. Hunter has 131,436 votes and Campa-Najjar has 122,255, or a difference of 8,181 votes. San Diego County has 47,000 ballots left to process, but it's unclear how many are in the 50th Congressoinal District. There may also be a small number of untallied votes left in Riverside County.
By Miriam Raftery
November 19, 2018 (San Diego)—On Election night, indicted Congressman Duncan D. Hunter led challenger Ammar Campa Najjar by nearly 9%. But as of tonight, Hunter’s lead has slipped to just 4.3% counting both Riverside and San Diego counties, or a difference of 10,046 votes out of 231,800 votes cast.
Importantly, in San Diego, which has over 10 times more voters in the 50th Congressional District than Riverside, Hunter’s lead is a scant 4.6%, a margin of just 7,782 votes. Countywide, the San Diego Registrar reports 112,000 ballots not yet tallied, though it’s unclear how many are in the50th Congressional district.
Hunter has 52.17% of the vote locally, compared to 47.83% for Campa-Najjar, who has been steadily gaining ground as late mail-in and provisional ballots favoring Democrats are counted.
Regardless of the final tally, this is clearly the closest race ever in this once reliably conservative district. In his prior five campaigns for Congress, Hunter waltzed easily to victory over his Democratic opponents with margins of victory ranging from 17% in 2016 to a whopping 42.8% in 2014. His father, the former Congressman, similary won by hefty margins during his many years in office.
While Hunter will likely hang on for victory, it may be by a very skimpy margin. Should he succeed in winning relection, he will be unable to serve on any committees due to the House just voting to formally strip indicted Congressional members of committee assignments (before, they were pressured to resign, but there was no official requirement.)
Hunter goes on trial in early December on federal corruption charges of stealing over a quarter million dollars from his campaign, along with his wife, and spending the money on lavish personal expenses. He has pled not guilty. If convicted, it is a virtual certainty that Democrats taking control of Congress in January will exercise their right to remove him from office, which would trigger a special election to replace him.
Should Campa-Najjar pull off a come-from-behind victory, San Diego’s entire Congressional delegation would be Democratic, joining neighboring Orange County, a former conservative bastion that no longer has a single Republican representative.
Campa-Najjar's strong showing likely reflects several factors including over $3 million spent by his campaign, Hunter's legal and ethical challenges, and the blue wave that nationally has flipped nearly 40 seats in the House of Representative from Republican to Democratic as part of an anti-Trump backlash and according to polls, consumers concerned over loss of healthcare benefits among other key issues. Campa-Najjar may also have helped boost turnout among ethnic minorities including the district's many Latino and Arabic voters.