Indicted re-elected congressman vows ‘business-as-usual’
SAN DIEGO — California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who won re-election while facing federal corruption charges, promised constituents Wednesday it will be "business-as-usual" in his deeply red Southern California district, but some wonder whether that will be possible.
Hunter beat first-time Democratic candidate Ammar Campa-najjar by more than eight percentage points in the San Diego-area district that President Donald Trump won by double digits in 2016.
Campa-najjar, a 29-year-old former Obama White House aide, said he would not concede until every vote had been counted, which could come later in the week.
The race was considered a test of partisanship in the Trump era and whether voters would overlook the taint of suspicion to keep the five-term lawmaker in his seat.
Hunter is one of the few candidates in U.S. history to be re-elected while indicted. He vowed Wednesday to continue his fight to rebuild the military, fortify the U.S. border, cut taxes and protect the 2nd Amendment.
"I intend to make it business-as-usual in working with President Trump for the next two years to achieve more success, especially given the challenge of having a Democrat-led House," Hunter said in a statement.
He is up against mounting challenges unlike any he has faced in his 10 years in office.
He and his wife are due back in court Dec. 3. A grand jury in August handed down a 60-count indictment against the couple alleging they used more than $250,000 in campaign money for personal expenses ranging from tequila shots to an Italy trip to dental work. They pleaded not guilty.
Robert Knapp, 59, a Santee Republican who services trucks and buses, said he reluctantly voted for Hunter, but he did not want to see Republicans lose the seat. "Personally, I would have a difficult time focusing," he said. "Hopefully he has good people around him to help him stay on track."
Hunter was one of two indicted Republican congressmen running for reelection. Rep. Chris Collins of New York is accused of insider trading. His race was too close to call Wednesday.
Both were early supporters of Trump and called the charges retribution for his election.
Trump, however, did not officially endorse either candidate, though some say he could try to intervene to help the Republicans now that Democrats control the House.
Bill Wells, the conservative mayor of El Cajon, located in Hunter's district, said there's no doubt the case will be a distraction. "It's not a positive thing," he said. "So the faster this gets resolved, the better it will be for the district."
Rep. Duncan Hunter,r-calif., speaks during an interview at a call center on Tuesday Nov. 6, in Santee, Calif.