By Ken Stone
But if current trends continue, the 29-year-old challenger will lose his 50th Congressional District race to GOP incumbent Hunter, 41, by about 7,000 votes.
Monday night, Campa-Najjar’s gap narrowed to 11,339 votes — with about 500,000 ballots in San Diego and Riverside counties still to be counted. On Thursday, when 740,000 ballots were unprocessed, Hunter led by 13,135 votes — or 8.6 points.
Now trailing the indicted congressman by 6.2 percentage points, the challenger wrote his supporters Monday and could boast only about beating the previous best Democratic result.In 2008, Democrat Mike Lumpkin, a retired Navy SEAL commander, lost the open race in the 52nd District to Duncan Duane Hunter, son of longtime congressman Duncan Lee Hunter.
“That 2008 campaign ended with the Hunters winning by 18 [points],” Campa-Najjar said in a statement before the latest vote count. “That was the record we had to beat, and we did, overwhelmingly.”
With 177,000 ballots in Riverside County uncounted and 326,000 in San Diego County, Hunter on Monday led by 5.4 points (9,070 votes) in his larger East County region but 16.8 points (2,269) in southwest Riverside. It isn’t known how many of those ballots were cast in the 50th District.
“We … surpassed the legendary 2008 campaign that came closest to defeating the Hunter Dynasty,” Campa-Najjar said. “Similar to this time, the Hunter legacy was damaged by corruption charges that led Hunter Sr. to step down and anoint Hunter Jr. as his replacement to save the family seat.”[The elder Hunter signaled his retirement when he announced his race for president in January 2007. A year later, after a series of last-place finishes in GOP primaries and caucuses, he dropped out of the race.]
Later Monday night — after sending email to supporters with “One Last Thank You” in the subject line — his campaign declared: “We haven’t conceded. Every vote should be counted.”
Hunter didn’t respond to a request for comment on the latest results.
Hunter and his wife have pleaded not guilty to 60 felony counts of fraud and campaign finance violations.
Four days after expressing hope for electoral victory, Campa-Najjar on Monday made this statement to volunteers:
Electrifying evening yesterday at our Volunteer Appreciation Night. While tens of thousands of votes remain to be counted in CA50, we’ve already made history. And IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU.
Regardless of the outcome, this campaign will go down in history as the most successful campaign to ever take on the 40 year Hunter Dynasty. Nobody has ever come close to what we’ve achieved, and given Hunter’s final fate in court, nobody ever will. We will forever have the distinction of being the best and last challenge the Hunter Dynasty faced.
We surpassed all expectations. We even surpassed the legendary 2008 campaign that came closest to defeating the Hunter Dynasty — similar to this time, the Hunter legacy was damaged by corruption charges that led Hunter Sr. to step down and anoint Hunter Jr. as his replacement to save the family seat.
That 2008 campaign ended with the Hunters winning by 18%. That was the record we had to beat, and we did, overwhelmingly. As of today, the Hunters lead has shrunk to 6%, and continues to drop everyday as new ballots are being counted. We only need to gain 3% plus one vote to win.
In hindsight, there‘s nothing new about a Hunter facing corruption charges. So what was so different between 2008 and 2018?
YOU. You were the difference, you were the change. Together, we built a people-powered movement the likes of which CA50 has never seen.
We spent everyday, for two years, meeting folks where they are. In their farms and rodeos; bars and diners; churches, mosques, and synagogues; college campuses and senior centers; VFWs and memorials; city halls and libraries; rallies and protests; tailgates and back yards; living rooms and dining rooms; and ultimately we transformed CA50 into an organized grassroots community from Escondido to San Marcos; Temecula to Fallbrook; Ramona to Alpine; from Santee, Lakeside, El Cajon, Jamul and all the way to Borrego Springs and everywhere in between. We didn’t just turn out the vote, we summoned the better angels of our district.
And beyond our partisan differences, we learned and persuaded others that at the end of the day, we are one American family. Bound together by a web of mutuality, patriotism, country kinship, and an aspiration past down by our forebears: to form a more perfect union.
These are the people and experiences I think about every morning and every night before I go to bed. I decided to run to change your lives, and instead you’ve changed mine. You’re the reason I stood strong in the face of so much hate and injustice. You were my “why” that gave me the ability to face any “how.”
I know times seem challenging. We all hoped for a more immediate victory and rapid result. The process of Democracy doesn’t just take place once a year on Election Day; it’s the unfinished work that spans a lifetime.
I still have hope in the very near future. I have hope for that military family from Valley Center hoping their loved one will make it back home safely, that hard working mother in Escondido who missed her daughter’s birthday working overtime, that father in Lakeside who had to make the heartbreaking decision whether to get a gallon of gas for work tomorrow or a gallon of milk for his kids breakfast, that teacher in Ramona spending out of her own pocket to buy school supplies for her students, that middle aged furniture maker in Fallbrook who went back to community college in search of a new career, that restaurant owner in El Cajon who has great food but can’t get a loan to expand and hire more workers, or that waitress in Santee who is struggling to get by but can’t afford college any other way because her parents aren’t well off but not “poor enough” for financial aid.
It’s because of stories like yours, your resilience in the face of hardship, that I have no regrets. And I would do it all over again in a heart beat for you.
Two years ago, I made the decision to give myself up as an offering to people yearning for real representation. Since then, my life has seized to be my own; it belongs to God and to those He has called on me to serve.
My life and my name is as much yours as it is mine. It belongs to every person who ever knocked on a door, made a call, wrote a postcard, turned out a voter and casted their own vote. You all took something and gave it new meaning to the tens of thousands of voters who marked their ballots for us. My name is a symbol you raised, an idea you built, and it belongs to all of us now.
The greatest way to give meaning to ones life is to offer it up to something greater than itself, to hitch your wagon to something bigger than you.
Thank you for this incredible gift, for lifting me up. Thank you for opening your lives and homes to me. I promise to be a steward of what we built together for the rest of my life, come what may.
Updated at 9:45 p.m. Nov. 12, 2018
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