Ammar Campa-Najjar weathered ads widely decried as relying on bigoted attacks of his Palestinian heritage during his bid to unseat Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., but he does not blame fear or hatred for his projected loss.
“I don’t think it was is because of racism, bigotry or Islamophobia,” Campa-Najjar said in a Tuesday interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The race for the 50th District became a national flashpoint when the Hunter campaign released an ad smearing Campa-Najjar, who is a Palestinian-Mexican American, as part of a “well-orchestrated plan” by terrorists “to infiltrate Congress.”
But Campa-Najjar credited Hunter’s win to the conservative nature of the district.
“I think a lot of people were going to their ballot and … just had a hard time voting Democrat,” he said.
Hunter represents a political dynasty in the ruby red 50th District — which encompasses suburbs of San Diego — that stretches back nearly four decades. Voters elected Hunter after his father, former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, retired from a 28-year tenure in Congress.
President Donald Trump carried the district by 15 points in 2016. Hunter outperformed the president that cycle, trouncing his opponent by 27 points.
This year though, the congressman was damaged by an August indictment alleging he used $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses ranging from tequila shots to dental work. He faces 60 federal charges.
Campa-Najjar appears to have narrowed Hunter’s margin of victory to 5.6 points. Ballots are still being tallied.
Campa-Najjar expressed some remorse for falling short on Election Day.
“I think people voted their values, and I take some responsibility with the outcome and the fact there was probably a failure on my part to communicate my vision more fully,” he said.
Hunter is in Washington, D.C., this week. House Republicans are weighing a rule change that would bar indicted members of Congress from leadership roles and committee work.
Though the Associated Press has called the race for Hunter, Campa-Najjar said he will wait for all outstanding ballots to be processed before formally conceding.
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