Despite what appears to be a substantial federal case against him, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA 50) is still holding on to a nearly ten point lead in the latest polling. Given the generic ballot breakdown of his district, this might not be a terribly surprising state of affairs, but his lead is still significantly less than he’s enjoyed in recent elections. Perhaps more interesting than the raw numbers are some of the comments offered by prospective voters when the pollsters called. (Washington Times)
Rep. Duncan Hunter still leads in a new poll in his push for re-election even after he was indicted on charges of misusing campaign funds for personal purposes.
Mr. Hunter, a California Republican, led Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar 47 percent to 39 percent, according to a Survey USA poll.
Most voters are aware of the charges, and a plurality said they believed the indictment was politically motivated.
Even many of those planning to vote for Mr. Hunter said they would prefer another Republican — but are ready to vote for Mr. Hunter if he’s the only choice.
Clearly, there are enough Republicans and conservative-leaning independents in the district who follow the reverse of the old maxim about Yellow Dog Democrats, but not all of them. And a sufficient number of those voters are willing to continue supporting him even after he bizarrely seemed to blame his wife for any campaign finance misbehavior. A significant number say they agree with Hunter’s claim that the charges against him are tainted by political motivations. Whatever the reason, assuming no further revelations shake the electorate up, it’s looking as if Hunter’s strategy of denying the charges and pressing forward with his campaign is working. (He defeated Democrat Patrick Malloy in 2016 by a margin of 64-36.)
What we’re seeing in California’s 50th District is the same playbook that many were hoping for with Chris Collins in New York. After his arrest on insider trading charges, many of us in New York thought he might just ride it out, win in a heavily red district, and then resign next year after he goes to trial. That would result in a special election being called and the GOP keeping the seat.
But Collins suspended his campaign and as of last week, the county GOP chairs in the district still didn’t know what to do. They’ve been interviewing candidates who would like to take Collins’ place in the election but they still haven’t discovered a way to get his name off the ballot without the Democrats challenging it in court and possibly winning that challenge.
As for Hunter, whether he honestly believes he will prevail in his trial or he’s just simply trying to do what needs to be done for his party to hold onto the seat, he’s following what appears to be the safest course for the GOP. Finding a solution for the Chris Collins problem in New York will prove much more difficult.