With their congressional ranks in California now reduced to a modern low of seven out of 53 U.S. Representatives, Republicans will now be forced to play defense to keep the San Diego-area seat of soon-to-be-resigned Rep. Duncan D. Hunter in special election next year.
On Tuesday, six-termer Hunter pled guilty to widespread missuse of campaign funds and is soon expected to resign his seat.
Hunter, namesake-son of his much-loved Republican predecessor, also faces a five-year prison sentence for using campaign dollars for what Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern called "a piggy bank to float a lifestyle [he and wife Margaret] couldn't maintain."
With Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom expected to set a date for a special election soon after Hunter's anticipated resignation, expectation is strong in the Golden State the primary will be held in March (coinciding with the presidential primary). Candidates regardless of party appear on the same ballot and, if no one wins a majority, a run-off between the two top vote-getters will be held in May.
Despite the statistics showing Hunter's 50th District to be the most Republican in Southern California, Republicans do worry it could go Democratic in a special election.
Asked if Republicans would hold Hunter's seat in a special election, California's Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel told Newsmax: "Not if there's fifteen Republicans and one Democrat, and it's sudden death [the Democrat getting over half the vote in the first round]."
So far, district Democrats appear united behind 2018 nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar. Facing Hunter — who was under indictment — last fall, Bernie Sanders Democrat and U.S. Department of Labor official Campa-Najjar got more than 48% of the vote.
The early Republican favorite is former Rep. Darrell Issa, who represented the neighboring 49th District from 2000 until his retirement in 2018.
Considered more moderate than the conservative Trump ally Issa is former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a past mayoral candidate in San Diego and now a radio talk show host.
Several state legislators and local officials are expected to fatten the GOP ranks in special election and could make Steel's political "nightmare" come true.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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