Ammar Campa-Najjar (left) and Darrell Issa. File photos

Republican Darrell Issa, seeking a return to Washington, led Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar 52.2% to 47.8% in the GOP-rich 50th Congressional District early Wednesday.

“We’re still looking at the returns with a measure of hope and urge every last vote be counted,” Campa-Najjar said in a statement Wednesday. “The fact that it took the former wealthiest member of Congress to try and buy this seat proves how formidable our people-powered campaign is. I’m proud of my team, eternally grateful to our supporters, and would be honored to serve the people of CA-50 in congress. May the will of every voter be heard.”

Despite both having Arab ancestry, the rivals blasted each other constantly over their political histories as both sought to claim the seat of Republican Duncan D. Hunter, who resigned in a corruption scandal.

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 southern Riverside County.

Last-minute mailers and online ads for Campa-Najjar and Issa tarred the other as unfit for public office with allegations ranging from terrorist ties to criminal actions.

One campaign sent a mailer displaying East County Magazine’s logo without permission; ECM does not endorse candidates and prohibits use of the logo for political purposes.

Both Issa and Campa-Najjar also recently appeared in video interviews with Defend East County — a 22,000-member Facebook group taken down Saturday by the social media giant.

Campa-Najjar drew sharp criticism from progressives and people of color for meeting with what some has characterized as a racist vigilante group, even as Issa denounced Black Lives Matter for “doing damage” to African Americans and referenced “criminal elements” in BLM and Antifa during his video discussion with DEC’s leader.

Issa has also tried to tie Campa-Najjar to terrorism in an ad that claimed Campa-Najjar’s father long had involvement with the Palestine Liberation Organization) PLO.

According to a San Diego Union-Tribune article, Yassir Najjar, the candidate’s father, “publicly advocated for peace” unlike the candidate’s more militant grandfather. Ammar Campa-Najjar was born in La Mesa and has indicated that his father left the family when Ammar was a child; his grandfather died before he was born. He was raised by his mother, a Catholic.

However, Issa also faults Campa-Najjar for his involvement in a peace-in-Palestine video that Issa’s characterized as “anti-Israeli.” Campa-Najjar has publicly touted a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict and his endorsements include some local rabbis.

Campa-Najjar’s latest mailer has this headline: “Issa’s troubling timeline of crime and corruption.” It references charges of car theft in the ‘70s and ‘80s, a military demotion and more. On the reverse side, ECM’s logo appears (unauthorized) on the top above a partial quote from a 2019 ECM article that quoted Republican and Democratic Senators who declined to approve Issa’s appointment by President Donald Trump to a trade commission because of concerns over undisclosed content of an FBI background check.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. Nov. 4, 2020

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