Darrell Issa in Congress in 2017. Photo from Facebook timeline

Retired Congressman Darrell Issa is inching closer to challenging embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter and a host of other local Republicans in the 50th District.

The nine-term Congressman, who lives in Vista, has set up but not publicly announced a website for an exploratory committee. The website was first reported by NBC San Diego on Wednesday.

“I have formally launched an exploratory committee for the 50th Congressional District in California,” the website states on the home page. “I have received such a tremendous outpouring of encouragement from supporters inside the district, and around the state and across the nation.”

If he runs for Congress, he will face not only Hunter but former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn, former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and former U.S. Navy SEAL Larry Wilske.

Hunter won a sixth term last November, narrowly defeating Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar with 51.7% of the vote. But his path to a seventh term appears more fraught with a trial on charges of campaign finance fraud set to begin in January.

Campa-Najjar is running again and is leading Hunter in fundraising. Under California’s top-two primary system without separate party primaries, it is likely that Campa-Najjar will face whichever Republican emerges from the intra-party battle.

Issa represented the 49th District in north coastal and south Orange Counties while in Congress, but his home in Vista is near the 50th District in East County and there is no law preventing members of Congress from living outside of their districts.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.