Duncan Hunter fails to win local GOP endorsement as federal trial approaches
Rep. Duncan Hunter failed to get the backing of San Diego Republicans on Monday, as the embattled congressman approaches a federal corruption trial and stiff challenges for his House seat.
None of the four candidates for the 50th Congressional District received the necessary two-thirds majority to get an endorsement from the Republican Party of San Diego County.
Hunter and State Sen. Brian Jones received 14 votes each. Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio received 21 votes while former Rep. Darrell Issa received none.
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The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that DeMaio won the first round of voting but was eliminated in the second. Jones beat Hunter in the third and final round but didn't receive the two-thirds majority required. Jones said he wasn't depending on his party's endorsement to win.
“It was always an extra,” he said. “It was never factored into our campaign strategy to win.”
Hunter, a six-term congressman and Marine veteran who served in Iraq, tried making his case during his remarks before the vote.
"I’ve won this seat in the worst of times. I’m still fighting from this seat. I’m still fighting for you,” he said.
Monday marked the first time he failed to get the GOP's full support. Hunter's spokesman, Michael Harrison, told Fox News that Hunter advocated for the party not to endorse any of the candidates.
"The party was committed to doing a process at this time which Congressman Hunter respects and participated in," Harrison said. "Obviously you have the unique circumstances of his pending trial. That has brought in other well-known Republicans."
Harrison said Hunter expects his trial to be concluded by early next year, giving voters the opportunity to "chose for themselves who they want without any cloud or issues that have been hanging over this race for the last couple of years."
The 50th District covers east and north San Diego County and part of Riverside County and represents a Republican outpost in a state dominated by Democrats.
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The region has been loyal to the Hunter name, The Tribune reported. His father, Duncan L. Hunter, served in Congress from 1981 to 2009.
Some view Hunter as particularly vulnerable heading into the 2020 election, considering he faces federal corruption charges and narrowly won a tight race in 2018. Prosecutors allege Hunter and his wife, Margaret, spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, including vacations, groceries and gold trips.
Hunter is also accused of using campaign money to finance a series of romantic trysts with lobbyists and congressional aides.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in June to one corruption count and agreed to cooperate with investigators and could end up testifying against her husband.