California, once a red state, has become increasingly Democratic in recent years: both of its U.S. senators are Democrats (Dianne Feinstein and former 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris), and only six of California’s 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are held by Republicans. The Golden State lost one of its GOP congressmen after former Rep. Duncan D. Hunter Jr. pled guilty to a corruption charge and resigned, and Republicans are fighting it out in California’s 50th Congressional District over what used to be Hunter’s seat.
The contenders include former Rep. Darrell Issa, who served in California’s 49th Congressional District for many years but decided to seek reelection in 2018, and podcast host Carl DeMaio. From 2008-2012, DeMaio served as a city councilman in San Diego — a city that now leans Democrat but used to be heavily Republican. DeMaio ran for mayor of San Diego in 2012 but lost to Democrat Bob Filner.
DeMaio is openly gay, and some of Issa’s critics have accused him of running a homophobic campaign and highlighting headlines that have noted DeMaio’s sexual orientation. Issa has also questioned DeMaio’s loyalty to President Donald Trump, and vice-versa.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, noted how ugly the battle between Issa and DeMaio has been and told the Associated Press (AP), “I think it’s an illustration of how civil wars are the nastiest wars.”
One of DeMaio’s anti-Issa attack ads unfavorably compares the former congressman to Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the only Republican in the U.S. Senate to vote guilty on one of the two articles of impeachment that Trump was accused of. The ad denounced Issa as “another Mitt Romney, lying to you, betraying President Trump.”
Issa has been endorsed by former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, Sr., the 71-year-old father of Duncan Hunter, Jr. The older Hunter, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives via Southern California from 1981-2009, was a fixture in right-wing California politics for decades. And the younger Hunter, now 43, was first elected to Congress in 2008.
Rae Moore, a Democratic voter, has no use for either Issa or DeMaio and told AP she hopes Democrats will be able to flip California’s 50th Congressional District this year. “We need regular, normal people,” she told AP.
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