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How Will Hunter's Guilty Plea Affect The 50th District Race?

Rep. Duncan Hunter arrives at the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego, Dec. 3, 2019.
Alexander Nguyen
Rep. Duncan Hunter arrives at the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego, Dec. 3, 2019.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter's plea deal on campaign finance crimes does not require him to resign his seat. But they believe it was understood by Hunter and his defense team that he would step down.

If Hunter resigns before Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom must hold a special election to fill his seat. If Hunter, however, waits until after Friday to resign, Newsom can decide to either hold a special election or leave the seat vacant until January.

How Will Hunter’s Guilty Plea Affect The 50th District Race?
Listen to this story by Priya Sridhar.

If a special election is held, history shows that Republicans in the race will have the advantage, said Carl Luna, a political science professor at the University of San Diego.


"On special elections, you have a smaller turnout and usually the smaller the turnout the better it is for Republicans. Democrats need a whole bunch of people to show win elections in contested districts," Luna said.

RELATED: Hunter Pleads Guilty To Misusing Campaign Money

VIDEO: What Will Happen To The 50th Congressional District Now That Hunter Pleaded Guilty?

If a special election indeed comes to pass, the winner would serve until Hunter's current term ends in January 2021. That person will also be considered the incumbent in the November 2020 election.

"That's going to confuse the heck out of voters and it's going to break up the ability of people to get a message across, particularly if there was a special election and a Republican is most likely to win it, then that would give them a definite advantage going into November," Luna said.

Currently, former Congressman Darrell Issa, state Senator Brian Jones and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio are running on the Republican side. Ammar Campa-Najjar, Hunter's opponent in the 2018 election, is the Democrat in the race.


The 50th congressional district has been represented by both Duncan Hunter and his father for almost five decades.