California congressional seat will be vacant until 2021

Posted at 4:27 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 19:17:13-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom will not call a special election to fill the unfinished term of U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who resigned after pleading guilty to a corruption charge, a spokeswoman for the governor said Wednesday.

His decision means the solidly Republican, San Diego-area district will not have a vote in the House of Representatives until January 2021, when Hunter's successor takes office. Three Republicans and one Democrat face off in a March 3 primary, with the top two finishers advancing to a November runoff, regardless of party affiliation.

The Democratic governor won't call a special election “based on the timing of the resignation," said Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman.

Hunter, 43, tendered his resignation Tuesday, more than a month after he pleaded guilty to siphoning campaign funds for personal expenses. It takes effect Monday.

Newsom was under no obligation to call a special election after Dec. 6, the filing deadline for California's March primary.

Holding the 50th Congressional District, which has an 11-point Republican registration edge, will be critical if the party hopes to reclaim control of the House after losing it to Democrats in 2018. The district includes ethnically diverse suburbs at the edge of San Diego that fade into farming and mountainous areas to east, including a slice of Riverside County.

Hunter's seat is being sought by three Republicans with strong local name recognition. They are former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the wealthiest lawmakers to serve when he represented a neighboring district and a chief antagonist of then-President Barack Obama. Carl DeMaio, a talk-radio host and former San Diego city councilman, and state Sen. Brian Jones, who highlights that he's the only major Republican candidate who lives in the district.

Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 30-year-old former Obama administration official who nearly defeated Hunter in 2018, is widely expected to emerge from the March primary for a November showdown.

Hunter gave no reason for resigning in his letter, instead offering a sweep of his achievements as a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and as a six-term congressman. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 17.

(Corrects summary and second paragraph to say two two finishers advance to November runoff, deleting reference to majority of primary votes.)