Ammar Campa-Najjar On His Race For the 50th Congressional Seat
In our series of interviews with the candidates running for office in the November election, we speak with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a small-business owner who is running against Rep. Duncan Hunter to represent the 50th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hunter, a Republican, has represented the 50th District since 2008. In August, Hunter was indicted on charges of spending campaign funds on personal expenses.
The 50th District comprises much of San Diego’s East County from Fallbrook and Escondido to Lakeside and Jamul and it stretches into Temecula in Riverside County.
Republicans make up 42 percent of registered voters in the district, while 27 percent are Democrat and 25 percent are registered as no party preference.
The answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Now, in the past you said that you are not in support of the gas tax. Tell me about that.
I personally believe that California as a state, the fifth biggest economy in the world, we put so much into the federal tax system. We should be getting out what we are putting into it. I think the fact that we have a gas tax, the fact that we're even talking about sanctuary cities, is a symptom of Congress and the federal government not doing its job, and now they're forcing and putting an added burden on California to do even more than we do for the state and for our country. So, I'd like to be able to get Hunter out of there, and propose an infrastructure bill that would go above and beyond the funding that we need to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.
Q: Now, Rep. Duncan Hunter was recently at a fundraiser and he spoke about you, it was recorded, and he made many attacks on your heritage, on your name. I want you to take a listen at what he said.
[Hunter] My opponent’s name — up until about about three months ago — was Ammar Yasser Najjar, named after Yasser Arafat, I kid you not. And he changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar so he sounds Hispanic.
Q: What’s your reaction to that?
A: My mother is Latina. I am Latino. I was raised by a single working-class mom. My dad took off when I was about six years old. She's the one that raised me. My name has been Ammar Campa-Najjar formally in the eyes of many for years. I decided to formalize it and legalize it recently, but when I was at the Department of Labor, I was Ammar Campa-Najjar. When I was at the White House I was Ammar Campa-Najjar, and this whole thing about my name being affiliated with a chairman in the Palestinian Authority is bogus. My father's name is Yasser, and it is tradition in the Middle Eastern community, including the Chaldean community, to carry your father's name. I chose to pay homage to the parent I knew the most, my mother. But this is a desperate attack from somebody who knows he's on his way out. He knows that he's under criminal investigation. There is only one person who has committed crimes in this race. It's not me, it's Congressman Duncan Hunter. I'm not responsible for my family's crimes and Hunter’s family is not responsible for his crimes. It's me and him and he's trying to use this as a weapon of mass distraction. What Hunter knows is that that man, that he talks about, died 16 years before I was born, he knows that I got a security clearance from the White House and the Department of Labor meaning I'm not a threat, and he knows that he's in a lot of trouble and he's trying to distract people from this ... The first groups that I came to when I decided to run, were groups like J Street and APAC, Jewish groups. And I told them about my heritage, that I had nothing to do with, and they’ve come to bat for me and they fought for me because unlike Hunter, I’m trying to be a transparent person and let people know about every part of my life. But the fact that Hunter has to go back three generations to attack me when I can go back three weeks ago to his indictment it just tells you the difference between me and him.
Q: You've said that the unemployment rate is one of the highest there in the 50th Congressional District. How would you fix that if elected?
A: Yeah, I just finished talking to the sheet metal workers as I was coming in, and they were telling me ‘look we want to have guarantees of local hires.’ You know sometimes workers are coming in from Arizona because they'll do it for cheaper, and then meanwhile our workers in East County, North County have to drive an hour, an hour and a half to the nearest job when they just want to be working in their area and their zip code. They want to help build the schools that their kids go to. They want to put the AC’s in the schools that their kids go to so that they guarantee those places are secure for their kids to go to school. So I want to be able to lift up those people's lives and instead of these workers going to the big city job, I want to bring the big city job to them. And I've talked to union workers, Native Americans, local business owners like the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. I want to bring big corporations to my district and maybe even explore putting it on Native American land, because it's not as tax burdening as other parts of California are and Native Americans love the idea. It would create jobs for Native Americans, for local areas and small businesses.
Q: You've said that you're in favor of Medicare, universal kindergarten. How would we pay for that if you're elected?
A: The way that we can do it, I think is putting those 6.7 million job vacancies, filling those job vacancies so more people are paying taxes, that means more revenue, cutting the federal bureaucracy that we have right now — it's outdated — modernizing and putting technology into it. Making sure that billionaires aren't evading taxes. That happens in this country and making sure that the people at the top are paying their fair share. No one hates millionaires or billionaires, but they should give back to the country that made their success possible. And lastly I think making sure that we have war be our last option. I'd like to live in a world where we can make peace more profitable than war.
Candidates answered with a YES, NO or OTHER, as well as a short explanation for each question, which can be viewed by clicking on the boxes below. If the box displays an N/A, that means the candidate chose not to respond.
When applicable, responses will include a date that marks if and when a candidate changed their answer.