In California congressional campaign news this week: Campa-Najjar spars with Trump Jr., Nunes gets some Freedom medal buzz, and a debate highlighted big differences between McClintock versus Morse. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week across California’s 53 congressional districts:
Radio debates, Twitter spats, and the political security that comes with belonging to the right party. Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week across California’s 53 congressional districts.
1. Insiders predict Hunter will win re-election—then have to resign
The race for California’s 50th congressional district is a test of the power of partisanship. Will voters here side with incumbent Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., who is facing a 60-count federal indictment for allegedly spending a quarter of a million dollars of campaign cash on vacations, spa treatments, and—yes, as you’ve certainly already heard—cross-country airfare for a rabbit? Or will voters in this Trump-loving southern corner of the state do the unthinkable and actually vote in a Democrat?
According to political insiders around California, it’s best to bet on partisanship.
But these latest results from the California Target Book Insider Track Survey—a poll of consultants, lobbyists, and other operatives in California politics—don’t exactly offer a sunny prediction for Hunter either. The vast majority of respondents believe he’ll go on to win the district that was carried by President Trump over Hillary Clinton by 15 percentage points, only to resign amid mounting legal troubles. Still only 5 percent believe that his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, actually has a shot at winning.
Public polling gives the Democrat better odds, but only slightly. FiveThirtyEight.com’s election forecast put the odds of Campa-Najjar flipping the seat blue between 11 and 13 percentage points.
Even so, some high profile Republicans are riding to Hunter’s rescue. Enter another MAGA-loving Jr., President Trump’s eldest and most Twitter-happy son:
California leftists really outdoing themselves with the crazy these days.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 11, 2018
On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. shared an article from the conservative website Breitbart reporting that the Campa-Najjar campaign had given money to a local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and received an in-kind donation from the group. CAIR is the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, but right-wing groups and Republican candidates, including Hunter and Florida gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis, have tried to connect it to international extremist groups. Last month, the Hunter campaign produced a video highlighting his opponents’ grandfather’s involvement in a terrorist organization and labeling him a “security risk”—an ad widely denounced as deceptive and Islamophobic.
Although Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was a member of the Black September terrorist organization, Campa-Najjar has said he never met his grandfather and has repeatedly denounced him. Prior to running for Congress, he worked in the U.S. Department of Labor, a job for which he received a security clearance.
Thus, his response:
I was given security clearance from the FBI in 2013 and met with @realDonaldTrump in 2015.
Do you think your father met with a terrorist sympathizer? Doubt it. pic.twitter.com/ItskH73ixM
— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) October 11, 2018
2. McCarthy goes gaga for MAGA
Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from Bakersfield has been on President Trump’s good side since early on in the 2016 presidential campaign. But as election day approaches he’s not taking anything for granted with the president’s base among the congressional rank-and-file, whose votes McCarthy will need to succeed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan when he steps down at the end of this term.
As Politico reports, McCarthy is in full-pitch mode, introducing bills to fund the border wall and giving exclusive interviews with Breitbart. President Trump, for one, was successfully wooed by the man he calls “My Kevin,” sending out an “URGENT” fundraising pitch by email with the header: “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Introducing Bill to Fully Fund Border Wall, Making Midterm Immigration Referendum.”
It’s a new look for McCarthy, who has never been an immigration hardliner. But then again, as one White House official said, maybe this is just where the Republican Party is headed.
“I know a lot of people want to make it, ‘Oh, there’s a speakership election coming up and he’s just started tacking hard right’ … but honestly he’s been doing this since Trump went into office,” the former Trump official said. “I guess I look at it more as the obvious, natural progression of Republicans like McCarthy.”
3. The “bravery” of Devin Nunes
Of all of President Trump’s talents, few are as well-honed as his knack for trolling liberals.
That may very well have been his plan when he called into his favorite morning TV show Fox and Friends yesterday and suggested that Visalia Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress and detested by Democrats everywhere, deserves the Medal of Freedom, the highest commendation that the federal government bestows upon a civilian.
“What he’s gone through and his bravery, he should get a very important medal,” the President said.
What Nunes has “gone through” includes the publication of a memo calling into question the validity of the federal investigation into the Trump presidential campaign’s with ties to Russia.
Trump initially suggested that Nunes should be given the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, before correcting himself.
4. Rumble in the 4th
Gubernatorial candidates John Cox and Gavin Newsom weren’t the only candidates to debate on Monday. Just an hour earlier on the same radio station, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock clashed with his Democratic contender Jessica Morse over who should represent the mountain district that stretches north of Lake Tahoe to south of Fresno.
Among the many topics covered:
- The state gas tax: McClintock was clear in his support for Proposition 6, the ballot measure that would repeal a recent increase in the state gas tax and other transportation fees. Morse equivocated, saying she would like to see the federal government provide more transportation funding, but that Prop. 6 was up to the voters.
- Justice Kavanaugh: McClintock said the accusations of sexual assault against Justice Kavanaugh amounted to slander but said that he wasn’t sure if the most high-profile accuser, Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford, had committed perjury in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee. Morse said that Kavanaugh had demonstrated himself unfit to serve on the court by failing to remain “calm, even-minded, fair and nonpartisan” during the hearings. She then used the opportunity to bash McClintock for voting against the Violence Against Women Act.
- Ballot designation: In the run-up to the primary, one of Morse’s Democratic opponents successfully challenged the designation she had hoped to have printed on the ballot next to her name. This accompanied broader allegations that Morse, a 36-year-old former State Department employee, had inflated her resume. In the debate on Monday, McClintock amplified that line of attack: “Jessica, for the last three years, you bragged on a blog that you were leading a ‘vagabond life.’ Wondering why you didn’t put that on your ballot designation.” Morse responded: “We’ll get you a sense of humor after we send you home.”
- Federal tax legislation: McClintock, like Republican congressional candidates across the country, championed the economic benefits of the massive tax bill that Congress passed last year, saying that it was already creating jobs in the district. He also played down concerns that the legislation is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the federal debt over ten years. Morse argued that the bill disproportionately helped the rich and not the “real people” living in the district.
- Guns in schools: We don’t bat an eye when we see armed security guards in banks, McClintock said. What’s the big deal about arming teachers who receive the appropriate training? Morse contended that arming teachers would just increase the risk of violence. “I’ve have lived in a place where everyone is armed,” she said. “It’s called a war zone.”
You can listen to the entire debate here.