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Issa Re-Elected To 49th Congressional District

House Oversight Committee Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. speaks on Cap...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: House Oversight Committee Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2014.

Analyzing The San Diego County Supervisor And 49th Congressional Races


Carl Luna, political science professor, Mesa College

The Associated Press Monday called the race for the 49th Congressional District in favor of incumbent Darrell Issa.

The eight-term Republican and chief antagonist of President Barack Obama survived a fierce fight with political neophyte Democrat Doug Applegate in his coastal district north of San Diego.

Unofficial returns Monday show Issa holding a 2,300-vote edge, with only a small number of votes left to tally. Vote-counting extended for weeks after the election as officials tallied late-arriving mail ballots and those filled out at polling places.

In a statement, Issa said he looks forward to working for his constituents in a Congress that is majority Republican.

Serving the people of Southern California has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I am humbled at the chance to continue fighting for them in Congress. I thank the voters for putting their faith and support behind me and look forward at all we’ll be able to accomplish together in the next two years.

I'm proud of all we’ve been able to get done, but we still have so much more to do. I am eager to continue working to advance the best interests of the American people and restoring the focus of Washington where it belongs: Economic prosperity, national security and government accountability. With our newly unified government, we have the opportunity to lead the country in a new - and better - direction.

Applegate said Tuesday he plans to run for the seat again.

"As a Marine colonel, I know that the hardest fights often take a couple of battles — and I look forward to continuing our fight in the days, weeks, and months ahead," Applegate said. "That's why I'm announcing my intention to run for Congress in 2018. This community deserves leadership that puts people ahead of partisan politics."

Donald Trump's presence at the top of the ticket in Democratic-tilting California and changing demographics in the district made the contest much closer than expected.

Republicans are on track to hold at least 240 seats in the House next year. With Issa keeping his seat, the only unresolved races left in the country are in Louisiana.

Democrats, who hoped for significant gains in the election, picked up just six seats on Election Day and remain in the minority with 194 seats.

RELATED: Issa On His Race For Congress, Refugees, Climate Change

The political newcomer Applegate sought to portray Issa as an extremist and Trump foot soldier, while Issa framed his rival as a liberal who was out of step with the district and would raise taxes and snatch guns from legal owners.

Photo by Nancee Lewis

Retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate makes a speech at the Westin Gaslamp Hotel, Nov. 8, 2016.

In a race in which Democrats sought to link Issa to Trump "people saw him as his own guy," said former Issa staffer Kurt Bardella.

The race between the car-alarm magnate and the soldier-litigator became a surprise after Applegate came within a handful of points of topping the veteran congressman in the June primary.

Francine Busby, chairwoman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said no one in the party expressed interest in running because they saw no chance of winning.

"We were all astounded, including Applegate," Busby said. "He barely had run a campaign. It's just hard to run in a district where people don't see a viable race."

A decade ago, Republicans held a 20-point registration advantage over Democrats in the coastal district, which includes wealthy seaside enclaves north of San Diego but also densely packed, diverse suburban communities. That double-digit margin has dwindled to single digits, while the number of independents soared by 60 percent over that time.

Issa, the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had coasted to re-election seven times. His fortune from car-alarm manufacturing has been estimated at more than $250 million.

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