November 3, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Four years after winning election to replace his father in the House of Representatives, what sort of record has Congressman Duncan D. Hunter amassed in Washington? To help voters assess Rep. Hunter’s two terms, ECM has taken a look at his voting record, legislation, campaign finances, campaign promises, and ratings from a variety of interest groups ranging from senior citizens, women and immigrant groups to business groups, educators, labor, gun rights, environmental, and veterans organizations.
Hunter refused to participate in any debates against his opponent, David Secor since the primary election. Secor interviewed with ECM and asserts that Hunter has ignored the needs of middle class voters and those who struggling in his district, also taking extreme stances on women's and senior's issues.
Hunter, a combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, failed to respond to interview requests from ECM and other prominent East County media. He also failed to provide information to the League of Women Voters for its nonpartisan SmartVoter site. He has not held a single live town hall meeting in his district . Locally, his appearances have been largely restricted to Chamber of Commerce and Tea Party events, as well as Republican fundraisers.
Below is the information on his record that we’ve compiled based on nonpartisan independent sources and his own legislative office.
The district’s new boundaries
With redistricting, Hunter’s district number has switched from the 52nd to the 50th Congressional District. It’s expanded northwest to include Escondido, San Marcos and even a small portion of Riverside County. On the south, the district takes in Jamul, Jamacha, Dehesa and Alpine communities before swinging north of I-8 as it extends east to the Imperial County line. On the western edge, it lost La Mesa, most of El Cajon and Poway, which have shifted into other districts, but retains many other areas in East County. View a map.
Like his father, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter has generally supported a strong defense, strong border security, and restrictions on illegal immigration. He voted no on the Dream Act, no on federal stimulus funds and against the Presidents’ jobs plan. He’s been supportive of business in generally, particularly the defense industry and manufacturing.
A Tea Party-backed Republican, he has opposed taxes and supported budgets with deep cuts in social programs, education, Medicare and Social Security. He opposed the President’s healthcare reforms and prefers a voucher system. He has criticized sequestration/trigger cuts that would reduce the defense budget, but has opposed repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy or corporations that Democrats have sought to prevent sequestration cuts. He voted to raise the retirement age for Social Security and shift Social Security recipients into 401K-type retirement accounts.
Also a religious conservative, he has taken more extreme positions than his father on some issues. Despite campaign promises to allow exceptions for abortion in certain instances, Hunter introduced a measure to outlaw all abortions even in cases of rape or where a mother’s life is in danger. He voted no on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women. He has also introduced bills targeting immigration, such as a measure to take funds away from states that grant licenses to undocumented immigrants.
He led the battle against repealing the military’s don’t act, don’t tell policy which allowed gay service members to serve openly. Though a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, his record on veterans issues is mixed, with good marks for supporting disabled veterans but low marks for his votes on issues affecting Vietnam veterans, but did support a new GI bill for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war vets.
He scored high from conservative and anti-abortion groups. He is a strong advocate of gun rights and hunting interests, scoring high with groups advocating for gun owners and sportsmen.
He’s drawn extremely low marks from educators (including an F from the National Education Association), healthcare professionals, environmentalists, and groups supportive of minority rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and civil liberties.
Legislative record – bills authored and coauthored (based on Hunter’s Congressional website)
Hunter has authored 43 bills. None became law, according to the status reports on his website. They ranged from a bill to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s license to a bill to declare life begins at conception, with no exceptions for rape or life of the mother. Other measures addressed paychecks for military families, access for military recruiters, and counter-terrorism activities in Afghanistan. Hunter measures also sought to prevent Guantanamo Bay detainees from being shipped to local military bases and name a battleship after World War II medal of honor recipient John William Finn.
Rep. Hunter also cosponsored numerous failed measures, including bills that sought to repeal federal healthcare reforms, prohibit the U.S. from contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increase offshore oil drilling, allow designation of Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, and allow importation of polar bears taken in Canadian trophy hunts, and tighten border security. Hunter’s website does not list any of these measures that became law.
He voted for the Paul Ryan budget aimed at slashing federal spending; the measure made deep cuts in Medicare benefits, student loans, childcare services, food stamps and disaster relief programs, among others. The Ryan budget passed the House but died in the Senate.
Interest group ratings (based on the nonpartisan Project Vote Smart)
Abortion: Hunter ran for office stating that while pro-life, he would support exceptions to allow abortion for rape, incest and to save a mother’s life. But he introduced legislation that would outlaw all abortions, with no exceptions. He has voted to cut funding for contraception services as well as abortion. Not surprisingly, he earned a 0% each year from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, but a 100% from the National Right to Life Committee.
Agriculture: Hunter scored relatively high from the American Farm Bureau Federation at 77% last year, but 0% from the National Farmers Union.
Animal rights and wildlife issues: Hunter has low rankings from wildlife protection groups but high scores from hunting organizations. For instance, he’s earned a 0% rating from Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund and a 13% from the Human Society in the most recent rankings, but a 100% from the Sportsmen and Animal Owner’s Voting Alliance.
Arts and humanities: Americans for the Arts Action Fund gave Hunter 0% in 2011 and 20% in 2008.
Budget, spending and taxes: Hunter scores high on conservative groups, earning a 100% from the Conservative on Economic Policy Score and a 78% from the National Taxpayers Union.
Business: Hunter scores high from most business groups, including 81% from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , 100% from the National Small Business Association and 85% from the National Retail Association last year, though in past years he’s had some more moderate scores including a 50% from the National Small Business Association in 2007-2008.
Civil liberties and civil rights: Hunter scores extremely low from most groups in this category, including 0% from the American Civil Liberties Union, 0% from the Arab American Institute, and 20% from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He voted for a measure that critics contend allows indefinite detention of Americans citizens, drawing criticism from Libertarian and civil liberties groups.
Education: Hunter got an “F” from the National Education Association both sessions and a 0% from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, though fared better with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (100% and 50%).
Employment and affirmative action: He got the worst possible ranking from Women Employed and Latin America Working Group, which both ranked him a 0%.
Environmental issues: Hunter has one of the worst records in Congress from environmental protection groups, ranking 0% from the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action California, and Defenders of Wildlife.
Families and children issues: His rank is 0% from the Children’s Health Fund, Children’s Defense Fund and School Nutrition Association, though the conservative-leaning American Family Association ranked him 94%.
Foreign aid and policy issues: Hunter draws mixed reviews here, ranging from 0% from the PeacePAC and Friends Committee on National Legislation to 100% from the American Security Council Foundation.
Gun issues: A staunch Second Amendment advocate, Hunter scores 92% with the National Rifle Association and 75% from Gun Owners of America.
Health issues: Out of 16 group rankings listed, 14 gave Hunter a 0% including the American Nurses association, National Breast Cancer Coalition, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Emergency medicine, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Children’s Health Fund. He scored 33% on AIDS issues and 100% from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.
Immigration: Hunter scores 0% from pro-immigrant groups including the National Latino Congress and American Immigration Lawyers Association, but 100% from the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Labor: Hunter’s scores from labor groups are mostly low, though not entirely. The AFL-CIO has given him a 0%, as have the Teamsters and groups representing federal workers in the most recent session. Service Employees International gave him just 3%. He fared better with the International Foodservice Distributors Association, which gave him 100%, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which ranked him 25%.
Military issues: Surprisingly given Hunter’s status as a veteran and avowed support for a strong military, his reviews here are missed. Military Officers Association of America gave him 0%, while the Fleet Reserve Association’s rankings ranged from 50% to 100% depending on the year. He also scored 0% from Women’s Action for New Directions on issues affecting women in the military.
National security: Here Hunter scored a solid 100% each year from the American Security Council Foundation and Keep America Safe.
Senior and Social Security issues: In their most recent ranking, the Alliance for Retired Americans gave Hunter a 0%. He has voted to weaken Social Security and supports a shift to vouchers in lieu of Medicare.
Veterans issues: Hunter scored a dismal 0% from Vietnam Veterans of America, but 100% from Disabled American Veterans.
Women’s issues: Federally Employed women rankings have ranged from 0% to 33%. Hunter voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay for Women Act and has supported limits to healthcare coverage and access to contraception for women.
Campaign financing (according to OpenSecrets.gov)
Hunter raised nearly a million dollars for his campaign ($920,807) including 60% from political action committees (PACS). According to OpenSecrets.org, the top industries contributing to his campaign are defense, transportation, business, financial/insurance/real estate, construction, healthcare, communications/electronics, lawyers and lobbyists, ideology/single-issue groups, and agribusiness. Northrup Grunman and BAE Systems, both defense contractors, are his top two single contributors.
Goals for the future (according to his campaign website)
Rep. Hunter’s campaign website states that his goals include: “Restoring America’s manufacturing base, the true catalyst for our national economy; Eliminating job-killing regulations, taxes and fees that harm small and medium size businesses; Controlling our Southern border to stop the flow of illegal aliens; Ending wasteful, duplicative programs and bureaucracy in the federal government; Achieving energy independence by using our own natural and manmade resources here in North America and; Freeing ourselves from the stranglehold of regimes that negotiate international policy using oil prices” as well as “maintaining our battle-hardened military force – the best trained and best equipped force on earth.”
Although Hunter did not respond for interviews this election cycle, ECM has covered him in the past when he first ran for election including debates in 2008 and 2010:
Coverage of 2008 election and debate: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/congressional_candidates_address_issues
Debate video 2008: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/congressional_debate_video
Debate coverage 2010: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/4538
Fackcheck on 2010 debate: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/4530
He did not respond to Patch.com interview requests this election cycle, either. Here are links to older articles by Patch on Hunter:
http://patch.com/A-nDYJ Hunter claimed rebutted on fines for spilled milk
http://patch.com/A-lHQr Long interview with Patch editors in Sept. 2011
http://patch.com/A-lCL3 Sees U.S. in Afghanistan for ‘Next 30 or 40 Years’
http://patch.com/A-mzvg Hunter stands alone: No reportable income
http://patch.com/A-mb50 Hunter answered questions from Patch readers