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Carl DeMaio Concedes To Darrell Issa In 50th Congressional Race

In this Dec. 3, 2019, file photo, Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio looks on in front of federal court in San Diego.
Gregory Bull / AP Photo
In this Dec. 3, 2019, file photo, Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio looks on in front of federal court in San Diego.
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A week after the March 3 primary election, Carl DeMaio has conceded to Darrell Issa in the runoff for in the 50th Congressional District race to replace former Congressman Duncan Hunter.

In a statement posted to his website, DeMaio said he was "disappointed" but grateful for his supporters.

"In this race we had to take on both the Democrat machine, the Republican establishment and an opponent who gave himself $3 million," he wrote. "Despite the odds, we broke records for grassroots support with over 34,000 contributors giving an average of $64 each, over 2800 volunteers and 100 college students canvassing for votes, and over 72 Town Hall events packed to capacity."

Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 31-year-old former Obama administration official, was the lone Democrat in the race. He's been leading the race with around 36% of the votes since election day. While DeMaio and Issa, both Republicans, hover at around 20% and 23%, respectively.

Campa-Najjar didn't declare victory on election night but said he was confident he was headed for a November runoff and his likely opponent is Issa. Campa-Najjar said Issa served for more than 20 years in Congress and “we need fresh legs."

He has fashioned himself a more moderate Democrat since he first ran for the seat two years ago. Campa-Najjar is touting his local roots, Christian faith and gun ownership to woo independents and Republicans in Southern California's most conservative congressional district.

The 50th is a region of suburbs and farm towns east of San Diego that includes the city of Temecula in Riverside County. Republicans have an 11-point registration edge and the seat was considered safe until Hunter was indicted months ahead of the 2018 election. He narrowly defeated Campa-Najjar, a political unknown at the time, and was seeking re-election until he pleaded guilty and then resigned in January.

RELATED: GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter Resigns After Corruption Conviction

Issa and DeMaio share similar agendas that support Trump's stands on issues such as stricter immigration enforcement and gun rights. But each has tried to make voters believe the other is not truly in step with the president, who did not endorse either candidate.

It's been an expensive battle. Issa, a car alarm magnate who was among the wealthiest members of Congress, spent about $2.7 million. DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman, spent about $2 million.

Issa built a national reputation and became favorite within the GOP when he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and served as the chief congressional antagonist to then-President Barack Obama. After narrowly winning reelection in 2016, Issa decided not to run again two years later in the 49th District where Democrats had been gaining ground for years.

Issa faced backlash even from Republican supporters for an advertisement that included references to headlines noting the sexual orientation of DeMaio, who is gay. Critics said it amounted to gay-baiting. Issa defended it, saying media outlets wrote the headlines and the ad was meant to highlight DeMaio's record.