Closing statements at CA50 GOP debate in San Diego

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, under criminal indictment and facing three GOP rivals, took another hit Monday when the San Diego County Republican Party failed to endorse him for a seventh term.

Two hours after a debate pitting Hunter and his challengers — former Rep. Darrell Issa, state Sen. Brian Jones and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio — the 49-member Central Committee gave no 50th District candidate the needed two-thirds support, or 33 votes.

The breakdown wasn’t made public. But The San Diego Union-Tribune reported a results photo showing DeMaio with 21 votes, and Hunter and Jones with 14 each, leaving Issa with none.

At GOP debate, 50th District candidates (from left) were Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, former Rep. Darrell Issa, state Sen. Brian Jones and former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio. Tony Krvaric, party chair, moderated. Image via Facebook

Before the 62-minute match at the Town & Country Resort Hotel in Mission Valley, county Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric sought to justify endorsements from the local GOP.

He reminded the record 1,200-member audience of 2010’s Proposition 14, which ended partisan primaries in favor of a system where all candidates vie for a top-two runoff in November.

“Democrats kept playing games, [and] vote for the weaker Republican,” he said. “Or if no Republican stands out, then Republican voters spread out their votes.” And two Democrats might advance.

Besides, labor unions, corporations and chambers of commerce endorse — as well as the Democratic Party, said Krvaric, quipping: “In most cases, I’d vote for a tree stump over the Democrat candidate.”

“The only pure body left to help guide Republicans are the duly elected members of the Republican Party of San Diego County Central Committee,” he said.

Krvaric urged the audience to unite behind any Republican — endorsed or not — who makes a runoff, “and we will support that person 100%. Deal?”

His repeated efforts to keep the four men from sniping at each other went for naught, however.

“I will not tolerate any beating up of a fellow Republican in this room,” he said. “This goes for the audience as well. I will not tolerate any jeers or negative shouting.”

But Issa, inviting boos, went after DeMaio as “a Never Trumper” who basically has “been quoted saying it.” (DeMaio didn’t rebut that when his turn came.)

Krvaric: “Let’s keep it clean, guys.”

The former 49th District congressman, noting his Vista home near the 50th District, said: “I live closer to most of the district than these two gentlemen [Jones and DeMaio], and much closer even than Duncan,” an Alpine resident.

Jones responded by saying: “I don’t know how much closer to the district you can get to the district than living IN the district.”

Issa said that if Hunter is able to “survive” his 60-count campaign spending misconduct trial in January, “we can have a whole different discussion. But if not, you need a conservative on Day 1 who will do the job in this district.”

Hunter, alluding to Issa’s decision not to run for re-election in 2018, parried with: “I’m not going to move somewhere and fight for the easy seat. … As a United States Marine, what we do is we stand up and we fight. … I’m going to stay in my district and fight and fight and fight.”

Krvaric: “Let’s keep it on our positives.”

DeMaio piled on, saying pointedly and sarcastically that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “speaker of the House because we had 39 Republicans who cut and run instead of stood and fought. … Democrats easily picked up open seats,” including Issa’s, flipping seven of 14 GOP districts in California.

Krvaric: “Before we continue on, I want to ask our candidates to respect the 11th Commandment. Can we do that, guys? Please? Let’s stick to the issues.”

Only five questions were posed Monday by Krvaric — and nothing about Syrian Kurds, the impeachment inquiry or climate change.

The first were: “What makes you different as a candidate? Positives please” and “How do you see yourself working with President Trump?”

Later sought were thoughts on the “border situation and immigration,” their support of the Second Amendment, and their anti-abortion commitment.

But even that generated fireworks — after Issa (touting his 100% pro-life rating with National Right to Life) said he supported Planned Parenthood’s gynecological services — “getting women the health care they really need.”

DeMaio would have none of that.

“Anyone who wants to come before you and suggest that Planned Parenthood is a legitimate women’s healthcare outfit is either a fool or thinks you’re a fool,” he said.

Hunter also took his shots at the multimillionaire Issa, noting that “I’m my own constituent (who struggles with the cost of gas). I’m not superwealthy.”

Before closing remarks, Krvaric said ever hopefully: “Let’s keep it positive. Let’s keep it on yourself.”

The incumbent since 2009 went first: “I’m a blunt guy, not a politician. I would like to see this [debate] energy… go towards the four seats in San Diego that a Republican doesn’t hold,” noting Famela Ramos seeking the open Susan Davis seat in the 53rd district and “the great Sgt. Major Juan Hidalgo, three-time combat veteran” challenging (for the third time) Rep. Juan Vargas in the 51st District.

In another contrast with Issa, Hunter said: “I don’t have a side job. I didn’t do something to hold me over until it was a good time to run for office. This is it for me.”

Issa was next, praising two of his rivals: “You have a seated U.S. congressman who does have a stellar voting record. … You have a state senator here who has been endorsed … seven times by this party who hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s doing an extremely good job up in Sacramento.”

Then Issa argued that nobody should be endorsed.

“If the delegates tonight endorse any one of us, they endorse against three of us. Do you really want to send a message that your state senator isn’t somebody who can be endorsed? You just endorsed him a year ago. Do you really want to say that Duncan Hunter needs to go?”

Referring to himself, Issa added: “Do you want to say that someone that you’ve endorsed and has supported this party for millions of dollars, tens of millions if you consider the national party, is … suddenly not to be endorsed?”

Issa then rejected Krvaric’s fears of a two-Democrat runoff.

“There’s only one Democrat,” he said of Ammar Campa-Najjar. “He’s cleared the field. There will be one Democrat and one Republican. If the party doesn’t endorse, ultimately one of us will win in March. And that will be the outcome that the voters chose.”

Jones, a former pastor, said: “This district is me. … The people in this district are hard-working, God-fearing people. We were Trump before Trump was Trump.”

And DeMaio told the story of how in May 1940 Winston Churchill was appointed British prime minister, “so he can preside over the orderly surrender to the Germans.”

But Churchill inspired his country to fight against the odds, said the former KOGO radio host.

“We face a similar time right here in California,” he said. “We can go with the old guard — an orderly surrender. That’s what we’ve been seeing from the California Republican establishment for so many years. I refuse to accept that.”