Voters In 50th Congressional District Seek Balance In A Representative
Some say Julian is the apple of the 50th District’s eye.
Nestled in apple orchards and old gold mines, the slice of small-town America is what the slow and easy lifestyle has preserved.
Teak Nickoles grew up in Julian, moved away and recently moved back home.
“I think that people that come to Julian, that live in Julian, appreciate the natural beauty. They appreciate being in a less crowded area. A lot of people come from San Diego and other cities and they’re looking for something a little bit quieter,” said Nickoles.
Nickoles, who hasn't decided which candidate he'll vote for, feels many voters are looking for a congressional representative who won't upset the applecart.
Carla Hendee is one of those voters and said, “I’ve always voted for Duncan Hunter, always."
For her, that vote has always been about protecting the generational wealth that was given to her family a century ago.
“We own 10 acres of a homestead that was homestead in 1918 on Boulder Creek Road. So, it’s an 80-acre homestead, and we pay taxes on 10 acres. It’s divided between the grandkids,” said Hendee.
She said the current criminal investigation into Duncan Hunter’s campaign spending won’t change her voting loyalty, even though two other Republicans are also running. They are small business owner Shamus Sayed and El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells.
“I’ve always voted for him (Hunter). I've always voted for him every chance and his father," she said. Hunter's father, who shares the same name, held the congressional seat from 1981 until his retirement in 2009.
Edwards said the younger Hunter also gets her vote because of one issue she is particularly passionate about. “For the most part, he stands for what I stand for. Obviously, I don't agree 100 percent with every politician out there, but there are things that he stands for that I stand for, most specifically he stands for life,” she said.
Immigration is another issue Edwards agrees with Hunter on.
“I’m not in favor of sanctuary cities. I believe the term illegal aliens represents the term illegal,” she said.
Three Democrats are challenging Hunter for the 50th District: Business owners Patrick Malloy and Ammar Campa-Najjar, and former Navy SEAL Josh Butner. Independent Richard Kahle is also running for the seat.
At a recent rally for Campa-Najjar, Valley Center voter Jim Nielson was among a crowd of people chanting, "No human being will ever be illegal." He said he hopes voters will "flip" the 50th from Republican to Democrat. "Even though I’d be considered a moderate Democrat, I'm not in favor of the policies Hunter has done, and I’m hoping that through Ammar’s leadership we can flip the 50th and make it a Democrat so we can help more people,” Nielson said. “Duncan Hunter is our representative and so far he really hasn’t reached out to anyone except who has his exact viewpoint,” said Nielson.
Still, the district has been Republican for nearly 40 years. However, longtime Hunter supporters like Gail Edwards say there is a push for a candidate who can balance history with progress. “We have a large population that doesn’t necessarily want to progress and grow," she said. "They want to stay small. They want to stay comfortable in their old school, old country feel. So, there is a mix of people who want to progress and people who don’t want to progress."
>>> There is also a crowded battlefield for the 50th congressional district KPBS Jade Heineman reports for voters the struggle is between preserving history and pushing progress. >> Reporter: This is Julian the Apple at the 50th district side. Nestled and apple orchards and old gold mines, the slice of small-town America is what is slow and easy lifestyle has preserved. As I walked down the two lanes of Main Street, I find to Nichols who grew up in Julian, moved away, has now come back home . >> I think people who come to Julian who live in Julian appreciate the natural beauty, they appreciate being in a less crowded area. A lot of people would've come from San Diego or other cities and looking for something quiet. >> Reporter: According to Nichols, looking for congressional representative who will keep things that way. You know someone who will not upset the apple cart. That is how Carla Hendy feels also. I sat to get her perspective over lunch on the porch . >> I have always voted for Duncan Henry. Always. >> Reporter: For her that vote has been about protecting the generational know wealth given to her family a century ago . >> we had family that lived here who owned 10 acres of a homestead that was homesteaded in 1918. Boulder Creek road. 80 acre homestead. We each had 10 acres divided between the grandkids. >> Reporter: The criminal investigation into Hunter's campaign will not change about. Even though there are two other Republicans Jane Ms. Siad and Bill Rawls run for election also. The same is true for gala awards. She is in town from Ramona with her husband enjoyed the Victorian charm at the former Robinson hotel opened by freed slaves back in 1897. >> I have always voted for him. I voted for him every chance and his father. We have been in this district for decades I would say. >> Reporter: She says she votes tradition because of one issue she is passionate about. >> For the most part he stands for what I stand for. Obviously I don't agree 100% with every politician out there. there are things he stands for that I stand for. Or specifically stands for the side of life. >> Reporter: She also agrees with Doctor Stanton immigration . >> I saw this one thing on Facebook it was USA and California to push it up because they want to do Sanctuary. I'm out of California if they do that. I'm not a favor of sanctuary cities. I believe the term illegal alien represents the word illegal. >> Reporter: Head out to the backcountry and into the city, there are dozens of people rally in support of the desk wrote DACA in the Democrats seeking election. Two other Democratic challengers just Butner and Patrick Malloy along with an independent richer Carl are also running for the seat. Jim Nielsen in Valley Center is among the crowd pushing for DACA and the democratic change in leadership. >> I think it is time to flip the 50th. Even though we are considered a moderate Democrat, I am not in favor of the policies Hunter has done. I am hoping through a leadership to flip the 50th and make it a Democrat so that it can help the people. >> Reporter: He is standing with millennial dreamers on a college campus who want to live, study, work in America. I desire he feels has been ignored by current leadership . >> Duncan Hunter is a representative. So far he has not reached out to anyone except that has is exact viewpoint. >> Reporter: Term after term, voters at the 50th have shared Hunter's viewpoint by sending him back to Washington. However, long-term supporters like Edwards admit there has been a growing undercurrent. >> We have a large population that does not necessarily want to progress and grow. They want to say small, they want to stay comfortable in their old school, old country field. There is that mix of people want to progress and those who do not. >> Reporter: For voters in the 50th, the fight is between preserving one version of history and progressing into the future. Jade Hindman KPBS news.