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Vargas Running For Re-Election To Congressional Seat Against Familiar Foe

Congressman Juan Vargas (left) is seen in an official portrait. Juan Hidalgo ...

Credit: Courtesy photos

Above: Congressman Juan Vargas (left) is seen in an official portrait. Juan Hidalgo is seen in a campaign photo.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

Congressman Juan Vargas is running for re-election to his 51st Congressional District against a familiar foe — Republican Juan Hidalgo, who lost to Vargas in 2016 and 2018.

And there are no signs that 2020 will be any different in one of San Diego’s most reliably blue districts.

Vargas was first elected to Congress in 2012 after serving eight years on the San Diego City Council and six years in the state Assembly. Democrats enjoy a significant voter registration advantage in the 51st District, which includes City Heights, Chula Vista and Imperial County.

Reported by Andrew Bowen

Activist and Democrat Aeiramique Glass-Blake had planned to challenge Vargas in the March 3 primary, but ultimately failed to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego, said Vargas has a host of advantages beyond the district's demographics: name recognition, money and the benefit of incumbency.

"He's represented this district for a long time, and it's hard to beat that person unless there's something that goes wrong — a scandal, a vote on which he's out of step with his district — and we haven't seen any evidence of that," Kousser said.

Hidalgo is a Marine Corps veteran who says he wants to bring more jobs to the district. He also supports President Trump's border wall.

Kousser said there are plenty of reasons why Republicans would choose to field a candidate in the race, even if the odds are stacked against them. When grouped together, GOP and nonpartisan voters actually outnumber Democrats in the 51st, and having a Republican in the race could give them a voice.

"And also, you're waiting around in case some scandal does strike," Kousser said. "That's what Juan Hidalgo is doing, he's positioning himself to take this seat if Juan Vargas somehow trips."

Because theirs will be the only two names on the ballot in the primary, Vargas and Hidalgo are virtually guaranteed a third rematch in the November general election.

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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