Ammar Campa-Najjar will challenge indicted Duncan Hunter again in 2020

The Democratic challenger filed paperwork with the FEC this week

Ammar Campa-Najjar, Democratic candidate for California's 50th Congressional district, came close to knocking off indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter last year. (CQ Roll Call file photo).

Ammar Campa-Najjar nearly defeated California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter last year as the incumbent faced a trial on charges of illegally misusing campaign funds. Next year, Campa-Najjar will try again.

The Democratic challenger filed a statement of candidacy form with the Federal Election Commission on Monday declaring his intention to run once more for the 50th District seat in 2020.

And he confirmed his candidacy on Twitter on Wednesday.

“I’m ready to pour my heart & soul into this race, community organize, listen, learn, and become the representative [the 50th District] deserves,” he wrote.

Campa-Najjar telegraphed his candidacy in an earlier tweet in which he compared his race to former Rep. Beto O'Rourke’s failed bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. The candidates lost by similar margins.

Hunter represents a political dynasty in the ruby red 50th District — which encompasses suburbs of San Diego — that stretches back nearly four decades. President Donald Trump carried his district by 15 points in 2016, but Hunter outperformed the president that cycle, trouncing his opponent by 27 points.

But his margin of victory narrowed dramatically in 2018 to just 3 points.

The Republican was hurt by an indictment in August alleging he used $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses ranging from tequila shots to dental work. He faces 60 federal charges. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.

House Republicans took up rules barring members facing serious legal issues from committee work. If found guilty of a felony, congressional rules would also forbid Hunter from casting votes.

“[50th District] taxpayers deserve better than a congressman who collects a paycheck to do nothing,” Campa-Najjar tweeted last month.

The California race also 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 ultimately did not blame bigotry for his defeat.

“I don’t think it was is because of racism, bigotry or Islamophobia,” Campa-Najjar said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “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.”

Hunter will also face a challenge from his own party. 

Matt Rahn, outgoing mayor of Temecula, will also run for the 50th District seat, the Times of San Diego reported.

Rahn described Hunter’s legal troubles as motivating his decision to enter the race.

“There’s an opportunity to let this play out in the courts and I am interested in seeing the results just like everyone else is,” he said in an interview with Valley News. “I don’t need to get involved in an area that has good representation, and I don’t need to be there upset the apple cart, so to speak.”

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