Trump’s choice falters in San Diego congressional race

The League of Conservation Voters announced Tuesday it’s spending $780,000 to bash Republican Diane Harkey in an effort to flip Republican Congressman Darrell Issa’s seat into Democratic control.

Issa represented the North San Diego County seat for nine terms but opted against running in 2018, after narrowly winning two years ago. President Donald Trump since nominated him to become U.S. Trade and Development Agency director.

Democratic congressional candidate Mike Levin at Voice of San Diego’s Politifest, Oct. 6, 2018.

In the once-safe Republican district, Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental law attorney, led Harkey by 10 points in a recent New York Times-Siena College Poll.

Now comes the league’s ad attacking Harkey over votes on offshore oil drilling and campaign donations from oil interests.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given the league $2 million and pledged more. The billionaire’s political action committee has prepared separate anti-Harkey ads but has not yet spent heavily to air them.

In August, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Diane is strong on crime, loves our Military & Vets-has my total Endorsement!” Evidently, that’s not playing well in the changing district that runs from just north of La Jolla to the southern tip of coastal Orange County.

Harkey, a Board of Equalization member and former assemblywoman from Orange County, was the Republican establishment’s choice in the June primary. Although she came in first, she received only 25.5 percent of the vote. Democratic candidates combined received more than 50 percent of the primary vote.

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside placed third among Republican candidates in the primary, after Democrats attacked him in ads as too liberal. Chavez, a Trump critic, said he believes Levin will win on Nov. 6, largely because Harkey is too closely aligned with the president.

“She’s running a hard-right race and I don’t think it’s going to work,” Chavez said.

Soon after Trump’s tweeted praise of Harkey, the National Republican Campaign Committee pulled out of the race, an indication that Harkey is in deep trouble.

“Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district,” Dave Gilliard, Harkey’s consultant, said. “We are still hopeful for national support and working hard with a great volunteer effort.”

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