By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: Ammar Campa-Najjar with supporters at state Democratic convention, via his Facebook page
February 26, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) – At the California Democratic Convention held in San Diego over the weekend, an overwhelming 97 percent of delegates voted to endorse Ammar Campa-Najjar in the June primary race for the 50th Congressional District seat held by Congressman Duncan Hunter. Campa-Najjar, a former Labor Department official with many local Democratic club endorsements, won the endorsement over former Navy Seal Josh Butner.
Campa-Najjar, Butner and other contenders will face El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a Republican, as well as embattled Congressman Hunter and potentially other challenges, with the filing deadling fast appraoching on March 9th. Hunter is viewed as vulnerable by many political experts due to the federal criminal investigation into allegations of misusing campaign funds for personal use and other controversies.
In other local Congressional races, the party endorsed incumbents Susan Davis, Juan Vargas and Scott Peters, but failed to reach consensus in an endorsement in the hotly contested 49th Congressional district seat left open by the retirement of Darrell Issa.
The state party also officially endorsed James Elia, who is running for the East County Assembly seat held by Republican Randy Voepel, as well as endorsing incumbents Shirley Weber and Ben Hueso in East County’s state Senate seats up for reelection in 2018.
The party decided to remain neutral, however, issuing no endorsement in several prominent statewide races including Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General as well as U.S. Senate.
That decision came as a rebuke to long-serving Senator Dianne Feinstein (photo, right, by Ron Logan), who has served in the Senate for 25 years but now faces a challenge from Kevin De Leon, a state Senator from Los Angeles. Critics contend that Feinstein hasn’t stood up forcefully enough against President Donald Trump’s policies, though as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she posed tough questions in the Trump Russia probe and has been a leading voice calling for restoring the assault weapons ban that she authored, which Congress allowed to expire. De Leon had sought to win endorsement, a rarity against an incumbent, but fell short of the 60 percent required.
With Governor Jerry Brown stepping down due to term limits, the gubernatorial primary race on the Democratic side of the aisle pits Gavin Newsom, current Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco Mayor, against State Treasurer John Chiang, Assembly Speaker and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Delaine Eastin, former Assembly member and past Superintendent of Public Instruction.
(Photos, left: Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom, by Ron Logan)
For details on these candidates as well as Republican contenders, see http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-governor-list-2018-htmlstory.html.
The Lieutenant Governor seat is also open. Delegates gave 42 percent of votes to State Senator Ed Hernandez of Azusu and 41 percent to former Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, with neither getting enough for a pre-primary endorsement.
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is termed out of that office and is running for Attorney General against incumbent Xavier Becerra. Jones got 56 percent to Becerra’s 42 percent, but still not enough to reach the 60 percent threshold required for a state party endorsement.
The party did issue these endorsements for other statewide offices:
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Treasurer: Fiona Ma
Controller: Betty Yee
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond
Pre-primary endorsements can be divisive and are thus often avoided when more than one candiate has demonstrated viability and a strong following. But no endorsement in races with multiple Republicans vying against multiple Democrats can run the risk of a top-two primary under California's system in which two Republicans could advance to the November run-off by dividing Democratic voters in heavily Democratic districts, and the reverse is true for Republicans in heavily GOP districts.