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Democratic Party Endorsement In The 49th Congressional District A Long Shot

Democratic candidates for the 49th congressional district;  Doug Applegate, S...

Photo by Alison St John

Above: Democratic candidates for the 49th congressional district; Doug Applegate, Sara Jacobs, Mike Levin, Christina Prejean and Paul Kerr at a forum in Orange County, Feb 20th 2018

Delegates at the California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego this weekend will decide whether to endorse candidates in the race to replace Darrell Issa in the 49th Congressional District. An endorsement could be key for Democrats to win one of the top two seats in the primary. But an endorsement may not be forthcoming.

“We have a horse race!” said Jessica Hayes, chair of the San Diego Democratic Party, describing the race to win the 49th, a district that has been named the most vulnerable Republican congressional seat in the nation.

Five Democrats and five Republicans are currently running to replace Issa, plus one Libertarian and a Peace and Freedom Party candidate.

RELATED: California Democratic Party State Convention Kicks Off In San Diego

The Democratic candidates are Doug Applegate, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr and Christina Prejean.

The five Republicans are Rocky Chavez, Kristin Gaspar, Dianne Harkey, Brian Maryott and Joshua Schoonover.

Also running are Libertarian, Joshua Hancock, and Peace and Freedom party candidate, Jordan Mills.

Photo credit: KPBS

The Democratic candidates running for Darrell Issa's seat in the 49th Congressional District

RELATED: Levin Raises Most Among Dems Vying To Replace Issa

Hayes said, since this is an open primary, anyone could be among the top two who go on to face off in November. A party endorsement could help narrow the field.

“They could be two Republicans, they could be two Democrats, they could be one of each,” Hayes said. ”So the reason why people would get behind one candidate is to ensure that our Democratic voters know the party is taking a position, and therefore hopefully increase the vote for one candidate — to make sure that at least one Democrat goes forward in that race.”

However, none of the five Democrats running to unseat Issa won more than 60 percent of the votes at a recent Democratic pre-endorsement conference. That’s the threshold for winning the right to try for the state party endorsement this weekend.

Mike Levin of Orange County won 57 percent, and he’s hoping to make the 60 percent cut on Saturday at the party conference. Levin has also raised the most money from donors. But even if he does win the party endorsement on Sunday, that may not be enough to win him the votes he needs to be one of the top two in June.

“Doug Applegate has 80 percent name recognition in that district,” Hayes said. “It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to beat him, it doesn’t matter what party they are.”

Photo credit: KPBS

Republican candidates for Darrell Issa's 49th Congressional District include 76th Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside; San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar of Encintas; Board of Equalization Chair Diane Harkey of Dana Point; San Juan Capistrano city councilman Brian Maryott and North County patent lawyer Joshua Schoonover, Jan. 23, 2018.

Applegate, a retired Marine Colonel, is the candidate who narrowly lost to Issa in 2016. He won in San Diego County, but when the votes from Orange County were tallied, Issa won the district in 2016 by just over 1,600 votes.

RELATED: San Diego Supervisor Kristin Gaspar Running For Issa’s Seat In Congress

The 49th District includes Camp Pendleton, and three of the Democratic candidates are veterans. In a recent poll of likely voters, Applegate came out top, with another retired Marine Colonel, Republican Rocky Chavez, close behind.

Hayes said until Democrats know who the top Republican picks are, it is difficult to know who would be the best Democrat to beat them in November.

“If someone like Kristin Gaspar were to come through,” Hayes said, “Sara Jacobs would be the one with the resources to beat her.”

Jacobs has contributed a million dollars to her own campaign and has already started to run TV ads.

”You cannot count any of the candidates out,” Hayes said. ”And the voters are the people who will ultimately decide in this race. The candidates need to get to their doors.”

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