Darrell Issa (left) hopes to rejoin Reps. Scott Peters and Juan Vargas (shown at 2016 event) in Congress. Photo by Chris Stone

Three congressional incumbents are defending their seats across San Diego County in the November election, while two other districts are up for grabs, with one representative retiring and another facing prison.

In the 49th District, Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, will be challenged by Republican Brian Maryott to represent the district straddling San Diego and Orange counties.

Levin won the seat in 2018, defeating Republican Diane Harkey in the general election, and taking over for Darrell Issa, who spent nearly two decades representing the area before announcing he would not seek re-election. Issa is now running to represent the 50th Congressional District.

Maryott, a certified financial planner and San Juan Capistrano councilman, previously ran for the seat in 2018.

Latest spending and fund-raising reports from county Congress races. Source: opensecrets.org via FEC filings
Latest spending and fund-raising reports from county Congress races. Source: opensecrets.org via FEC filings

Both candidates have identified assisting veterans and those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic among their chief priorities.

Levin has advocated for strengthening the Affordable Care Act, while Maryott says he wants to end “Obamacare restrictions on specialty healthcare for our seniors” and opposes “nationalizing our world class healthcare system at all costs.”

Both candidates oppose offshore drilling and have identified the safe storage and removal of nuclear waste from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as a priority. Levin says his first term included the creation of a task force aimed at analyzing the decommissioned plant’s issues and the introduction of legislation to expedite the waste removal. Maryott says he will support efforts to create a deep mountain repository for the spent nuclear fuel.

Maryott has contended that Levin is too liberal for the district, while Levin insists his voting record “places him ideologically in the middle of the Democratic Caucus.”

In the 50th District, Issa will face off with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar to represent a district plagued by scandal and the resignation of its former representative, Duncan D. Hunter, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully spending campaign funds and is facing nearly a year in prison.

Issa brings considerable experience to the table and is seeking a seat in a region that has consistently voted Republican and re-elected Hunter even as he faced indictment. Issa says he supports construction of the border wall and protecting the Second Amendment, and opposes California’s Sanctuary State law.

Campa-Najjar, an East County native, owns a consulting firm and is a course lecturer at San Diego State University. He also worked on Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Campa-Najjar says he supports border security, as well as initiatives to make it easier for immigrants to enter the country legally. He also supports a healthcare plan allowing patients to choose from providers in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. He says he wants to preserve portions of the Affordable Care Act, though he says “it has serious flaws.”

Issa has questioned Campa-Najjar’s political convictions, saying his opponent has attempted to rebrand himself as a moderate in order to appeal to Republican voters, while Campa-Najjar says he has spent more time on the ground with 50th District residents than Issa, who formerly represented the 49th District.

The 50th District covers East and North San Diego County, along with portions of Riverside County.

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and Republican challenger Juan Hidalgo Jr. will face off for California’s 51st Congressional District seat for the third straight election.

Vargas, who has represented the district since 2012, won the last two elections soundly, taking 72.8% of votes in 2016, and 71.2% in 2018.

The 51st District includes southern San Diego County — including National City, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach — and all of Imperial County.

Vargas was born in National City and his political career includes election to the San Diego City Council in 1993, the state Assembly — representing District 79 — in 2000, and the state Senate — representing District 40 — in 2010.

Among his policy priorities are immigration reform, health care, education and boosting economic growth through solar and green power, according to his campaign website.

Hidalgo was born in San Diego and raised in National City, according to his campaign. He served in the Marine Corps., with his last assignment as the Sergeant Major for the Joint Task Force of Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba.

Hidalgo’s campaign website highlights jobs, education and public safety as his biggest priorities.

He cites high unemployment rates in the 51st District compared to the rest of the state and country as a reason for voters to oust Vargas. Additionally, Hidalgo says he will seek better educational opportunities for children in economically disadvantaged areas, while on the public safety side, he’ll prioritize border security and support for local law enforcement.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, who has represented the 52nd District since 2013, will face off against Republican challenger Jim DeBello, who has decades of experience in the tech industry.

In Peters’ campaign statement, he states that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and social justice are among his chief issues.

He advocates for a “long-term federal plan to increase testing, speed vaccine development and ensure vaccines and treatments are available to everyone equally.” Peters also says he has pushed for federal investment in clean energy technology and is working with “Congress, Black leaders and the police to fix police practices and hold bad cops accountable.”

Peters previously served on the San Diego City Council, including as the council’s first president. He also served as chairman of the San Diego Unified Port District.

DeBello is a San Diego native perhaps best known as co-inventor of a mobile check deposit app used by 80 million customers, according to his campaign. He also served as chairman and CEO of Mitek Systems for 15 years and led Qualcomm’s Internet Software business unit.

DeBello describes himself as “a successful business leader and not a career politician,” saying he has created jobs through his business endeavors, according to his campaign.

He also said his mobile check deposit has yielded climate benefits by saving fuel, “eliminating millions of tons of carbon emissions.”

DeBello states he will work to rebuild the economy through a focus on innovation, and he opposes “job killing regulations that prevent entrepreneurs, creatives and people that need part-time work to earn a living.”

The 52nd District comprises much of coastal and central San Diego.

In the 53rd District, two Democrats, Sara Jacobs and San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez, are vying for the seat vacated by Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, who announced late last year she would not seek re-election after representing the region for two decades.

Rather than focusing on overt policy differences, the campaigns have focused more on the candidates’ backgrounds.

Jacobs is the granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, and her wealthy background has been highlighted in Gomez’s campaign advertisements.

Jacobs is also the founder and chair of San Diego for Every Child, a nonprofit focused on ending child poverty. She worked as a policy adviser on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and held policy positions at the U.S. State Department and UNICEF, according to her campaign website.

She says she will work to address climate change and gun violence, as well as increase access to affordable childcare and reproductive care.

Gomez has served on the city council since 2016 — representing District 9 — and as council president since 2018. She cites her work on the council as part of the platform she plans to carry into Congress, including action to combat climate change, providing economic relief to families during the pandemic, expanding affordable housing and advocating for criminal justice reforms.

The 53rd District stretches from Linda Vista to the South Bay, and also covers portions of Eastern San Diego County, such as El Cajon and La Mesa.

— City News Service