Even before San Diego’s polls closed, the national news media was reporting that Democrats had captured the House of Representatives, while Republicans had retained the U.S. Senate.
The Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to win control of the House of Representatives. As it turned out, San Diego County added another previously Republican House seat to the Democratic column with the victory of Mike Levin over Diane Harkey. Another race, in which Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar was thought to be in contention, was won by Republican incumbent Duncan Hunter, notwithstanding the fact that a federal grand jury had returned a 60-count indictment against him and his wife on charges of misappropriating $250,000 in campaign funds.
Prior to Tuesday’s voting, San Diego’s five-member congressional delegation had been divided among three Democrats and two Republicans. Now the count is four Democrats and the Republican, Hunter, who, depending on the results of his trial, could be forced to resign the seat.
Three Democratic members of Congress—Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, and Susan Davis—coasted to easy victories respectively over Juan Hidalgo, Omar Qudrat and Morgan Murtaugh. Had Qudrat, the son of immigrants from Afghanistan, been successful, he would have been the first Republican Muslim to be elected to Congress.
For Davis, who will enter her tenth term as the most senior member of San Diego’s delegation, Democratic control of the House of Representatives means she will become the chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, and will be the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
While it is anticipated that with Democrats now in control of the Congress, there will be numerous investigations launched into aspects of President Donald Trump’s administration, Davis said she believes her fellow Democrats should try to reach across the aisle to Republicans in an effort to rebuild bipartisanship in the Congress.
Davis was among a number of Jewish officeholders and candidates whose names were on San Diego ballots. Some won and some lost.
In early returns:
Some of the Jewish winners were U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who defeated the former president of the State Senate, Kevin DeLeon, a fellow Democrat. Another Jewish statewide candidate was Steve Poizner, a former Republican who once served California as State Insurance Commissioner, and later tried unsuccessfully to run for governor. After an absence from public office, Poizner sought to be sent back by voters to the State Insurance Commissioner’s office – as an independent. However, as the counting wore on, he was losing to Democrat Ricardo Lara.
In the race for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who is Jewish and Republican, was defeated by former state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat.
In a San Diego City Council race, Dr. Jen Campbell, a Jewish Democrat appeared well ahead of incumbent Lorie Zapf. Although the City Council technically is non-partisan, Campbell was expected to become the sixth Democrat on the nine-member City Council, enough to assure Democrats will have enough voting strength to override any veto by Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
In some other contests with Jewish candidates, Larry Kornit failed in a bid for the Oceanside City Council. Marla Strich was assured one of three seats in a race for the Encinitas Union School District, but in a race for the San Diego Community College Board, Loren Casuto – son of former Anti-Defamation League regional director Morris Casuto – was defeated by Craig Milgrim for an open seat. Lea Wolf meanwhile was placing third in a contest for a seat on the San Dieguito Union High School board.
Mike Levin, elected to Congress in the 49th District, has a Mexican-American mother and a Jewish father, while Ammar Campa-Najjar, who battled unsuccessfully against Hunter, has a Mexican-American mother and a Palestinian father.
It was Campa-Najjar’s grandfather who was the subject of considerable controversy in the race against Hunter. He was one of the terrorists who participated in the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. A year later, the grandfather was assassinated by Israeli security forces. Campa-Najjar was born 16 years after his grandfather’s death, and has disavowed his actions. A Christian, Campa-Najjar said he supports a two-state solution to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He had considerable Jewish support, notwithstanding his genealogy. When Hunter’s father, a former congressman who also is named Duncan Hunter, contended at a press conference that Campa-Najjar was a security risk, 17 local rabbis signed a letter denouncing the effort which they described as rooted in “appeals to racism, bigotry and fear.” Campa-Najjar had security clearance during the administration of President Barack Obama, for whom he served in the office charged with reading constituent mail to the President and deciding which letters to show him.
Until Hunter’s indictment, a Republican victory in the 50thDistrict had been considered practically automatic, given the huge registration advantage that Republicans have over Democrats there. There were 154,163 Republicans registered in the District compared to 103,009 Democrats. Another 104,381 voters are registered as non-partisan.
Levin’s congressional race against Diane Harkey, a member of the state Board of Equalization, materialized after U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) announced his retirement. A large field of candidates competed in the primary elections with Levin, a former executive director of the Democratic party in Orange County, and Harkey emerging as the top two finishers. While registration in the district favored Republicans by a margin of 139,392 to 124,330 Democrats, the balance of power was held by 115,113 independents, known in election-speak as NP’s (for No-Preference, or Non-Partisan). The 49thcongressional district includes portions of San Diego and Orange Counties.
Levin had hammered away at the collapse of Point Center Financial, a real estate investment firm in which millions of dollars were lost by mom and pop investors in what they called a Ponzi scheme. Harkey’s husband, Dan, was the president of Point Center Financial, and Diane served as the corporate secretary. The collapse of her
husband’s financial empire had been an issue in an earlier election, but Diane Harkey nevertheless was elected to a seat on the state Board of Equalization. Besides pummeling her on that issue, Levin also tied Harkey to the policies of President Donald Trump.
Harkey said she might have won if Republicans hadn’t written off her district, while Democrats outspent her by a margin of 10-1. She said while her campaign spent only $1.7 million on the race, Democrats spent $17 million against her. Harkey also was peeved at Issa, who was quoted just before the election as saying that a Democrat would win his old district, and that it was never in play.
While some candidates like Davis and Harkey met with media and supporters at Election Central at the Golden Hall complex adjacent to the San Diego City Hall, other candidates waited out election results at other locations. As is typical at Election Central, sign-bearing supporters followed candidates to their media interviews, while other political enthusiasts, sometimes dressed in costumes, promoted their causes.
Republished from San Diego Jewish World.