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Ex-Rep. Darrell Issa to challenge Duncan Hunter, who is awaiting trial

Likely GOP faceoff comes as Issa nomination to Trump administration post has stalled in Senate

Former Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will announce Thursday he is running in California's 50th District in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Former Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will announce Thursday he is running in California's 50th District in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Rep. Darrell Issa is expected to run against fellow Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former colleague facing trial on corruption charges, sources familiar with the ex-congressman’s thinking confirmed to CQ Roll Call Wednesday.

Issa has scheduled a press conference in the district for Thursday morning, where he is expected to announce a challenge to Hunter, a six-term veteran, in the 50th District.

[Rep. Duncan Hunter’s trial pushed to 2020]

Issa was one of the wealthiest members of Congress when he decided last year not to run for reelection in the 49th District, which he represented for 18 years. A run in 2020 likely means Issa would abandon his nomination by President Donald Trump to be director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

He was nominated for the post for over a year ago, but his confirmation hearing, scheduled for last week, was delayed indefinitely.

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Issa’s 49th District seat flipped to the Democrats in the 2018 elections, with Rep. Mike Levin defeating GOP candidate Diane Harkey  by 12 percentage points.

[These 4 Democrats want a rematch in 2020 after narrow losses in 2018]

Hunter faces trial in January on federal corruption and campaign finance charges. The trial would come just weeks before the California “jungle primary,” in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to compete in the general election.

Issa has hinted for months that he intended to run for Hunter’s seat in the 50th District to prevent the Democrats from picking up another longtime GOP stronghold in Southern California.

Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who lost to Hunter by less than 4 percentage points in 2018, is running again and is expected to mount a significant challenge to anyone running in the 50th.

Hunter’s seat was on the initial list of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targets in January.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for California’s 50th District Leans Republican.

Five other Republicans have already announced primary challenges to Hunter, including 2014 congressional candidate and political radio host Carl DeMaio.

Three of those candidates were slated to appear at Issa’s press conference on Thursday — a possible indication that they intend to abandon their campaigns and support the former congressman.

But DeMaio’s campaign criticized Issa on Wednesday for “[fleeing] his own district” in the 2018 midterms.

Darrell Issa epitomized what is wrong with establishment California Republican politicians,” said DeMaio campaign spokesman Dave McCulloch.

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