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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego GOP Leader Explains No Endorsement In 50th Congressional

 October 16, 2019 at 10:35 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego County Republicans are not endorsing any of their four party candidates in the 50th congressional district race. That includes incumbent Duncan Hunter, who's been indicted for misusing campaign funds on the democratic side. Hunter's opponent in 2018 Amar camp in a jar will run again in 2020. Tony Clark is chairman of the counties Republican party. He says the 49 members of the party committee could not reach that two thirds majority. They needed to make an endorsement. KPBS reporter Prius Schrieffer spoke with him about what that means for the race. Speaker 2: 00:36 Okay, so now what happens now Speaker 3: 00:38 the party is not going to have a, a preferred candidate and whoever makes it out of the runoff against the socialist will, um, become a default a nominee. Speaker 2: 00:50 Is this the first time in the history of the San Diego County Republicans that there hasn't been an endorsement? Speaker 3: 00:56 No. No it hasn't. Uh, most of the time the reason endorsement because the committee really wants to, uh, get to an endorsement. They in this top two primary assistant that we have, uh, we run the risk of having Democrats determining which Republican can get into the, uh, the top two by, so they can vote for a weaker Republican, if you will, or their preferred Republican try to game the system. Or you could have the, the, uh, the a risk where two Democrats make it into the runoff. Unlikely. But it certainly has happened. Uh, and then Republicans get shout out completely. So if Republicans don't know who the endorsed candidate is and they just spread their votes and there are only two Democrats in there, four or five or six Republicans, it could happen with two Democrats have, uh, get into the runoff and Republicans have nobody. Speaker 2: 01:44 So why do you think it wasn't, you weren't able to get that to them Speaker 3: 01:48 for Meda? A credible, strong path, a strong case to make. And as a result, uh, that was the decision of the committee. Speaker 2: 01:56 Uh, can you tell us how the votes were broken down? I have to ask, Speaker 3: 02:01 but no, no. The, the, the uh, this is all in closed session. And so the only thing we report out is that, uh, uh, the actual result or you know, endorsement or non endorsement, Speaker 2: 02:11 um, are you worried at all the fact that you know, you weren't able to get the two thirds majority that that could somehow trickle down into the actual election and make it so that there could be internal politics that could then help [inaudible]? Speaker 3: 02:27 I think, uh, on the Democrat side you have one candidate, um, who people are coalescing around that candidate will not support president Trump that pres, that candidate will vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Um, any of the other candidates, uh, will not. And that district, uh, is one of the most Republican districts. Uh, I think president Trump wanted by 15 points last time. So, uh, there, that district will vote for president Trump again and they will also vote for the representative that supports the then, Speaker 2: 02:58 and you know, Dunkin Hunter Speaker 3: 03:00 pointed this out a lot yesterday when he said that, you know, only seven seats are still being held by Republicans in the state of California, only two of them South of Los Angeles. Um, you know, including his obviously, so this is a pretty critical seat for the Republican party. Um, I guess if you could just talk about, you know, why, uh, this is so key for, for the future of the party in the state of California. Well, we need to have a Republican voice in Washington representing us down here and we don't have, you know, we have, um, the current Democrats on here, they cleared to have no traction with the white house. So if San Diego's gonna get anything done, we need somebody to be able to care that to the white house and also represent the, you know, hundreds of thousands of Republicans that live here. Speaker 2: 03:43 A lot of people say that part of the reason that Omar was able to get so much traction in the last election was because of Dunkin hunters, you know, criminal issues that he's dealing with right now. Are you worried at all about that potentially happening again? Speaker 3: 03:56 The good thing is this'll be settled by a January. I think the final now postponement and, and all the legal procedures are that there's a court date in mid January and that's gonna take two, three weeks. Ballots start in, in early February. So we should know and the electorate will know one way or the other. And so, um, we'll have four candidates there and obviously if it doesn't go, uh, the Congress in his way, then that'll, you know, uh, kind of sorted itself out. Speaker 1: 04:28 Joining me is KPBS reporter Prius Rotheram prio welcome. Thank you. Let me pick this up right where Tony Lavarack left off. Kovacic says the Hunter situation will be resolved by the time of the primary, even if it's true that Hunter's trial is over. Is it clear that if Congressman Duncan Hunter is convicted that he will step aside and not run in the 50th district? Speaker 4: 04:51 No, it's not clear at all. And many people thought that by now he would have tried to accept some sort of plea deal and perhaps resigned his position. But he seems very adamant that he wants to continue running in this race and representing that district. And there's nothing in the constitution that actually says that someone who's been convicted of a crime and even as sentenced to jail time can't be elected so he could still even be elected. The only way that he could be a removed if he is convicted and also elected as if two thirds of the house decides to remove him if that scenario does play out. But the timeline of all of this is very fascinating because he kept rescheduling his trial until now, which, uh, it's going to take place in the middle of January. So, um, it's uh, there's a good chance that the trial will be over and potentially the sentencing if he is convicted, but that doesn't mean that his name is going to be taken off the ballot at that point. It's basically too late. Speaker 1: 05:46 Now, obviously income and Duncan Hunter was looking for the endorsement of his party at this meeting. What does it mean to his campaign that he didn't get it? Speaker 4: 05:55 This is the first time that he been officially endorsed by the Republican party of San Diego County, but this isn't the first time that they haven't made an endorsement for a race. So it's a very complicated process. There are 49 members of the Republican party that end up voting to make an official endorsement and you need to have a two thirds majority to get that official endorsement. And after four different rounds of voting, unfortunately they weren't able to get that kind of consensus. So obviously it's unusual that the incumbent candidate isn't getting the endorsement of the party, but, uh, you know, the show is going to go on. So we'll have to see how that plays into his particular campaign. Is Duncan Hunter running an active campaign? Most people would say not really. Um, I mean this is the first time that he's had so many, obviously Republican challengers. However, he has been avoiding the media at all costs. Um, mostly because he doesn't want to face questions, uh, probably about his trial. So I mean, this was why Monday nights debate was so unusual because all four candidates were there. They were all answering questions. They all had to speak about their stance on abortion, the second amendment immigration, how they would partner with Trump if elected, and what makes them stand out from the other candidates. So it was one of those very rare opportunities that you got to listen to Duncan Hunter, you know, without any sort of filter editing for an actual hour. Speaker 1: 07:21 So Tony Kovalchuk would not tell you how the vote came out, but, and nobody got the two thirds that they needed to get the endorsement. But it was reported that former city Councilman, Carl de Mayo actually got the most votes in the first round. Another candidate got the most votes in another round. So how did it actually work? How did that vote actually work? Speaker 4: 07:40 Right? So there were four rounds of voting and essentially what they have to do is after the first round, the person or the candidate who gets the lowest amount of votes gets dropped off and then they make a, they have more rounds of voting with the rest of the three candidates who are left. So that's why, you know, Tony [inaudible] was very particular in saying that seeing the numbers from any one round is not very indicative. It's just a snapshot of what happened because there was negotiations that happened between each round to try to get to that two thirds that they needed to make an official endorsement. Have any, Speaker 1: 08:14 the other GOP candidates said they will drop out of the race if Dunkin Hunter is cleared. Speaker 4: 08:20 No one has really talked about that. Um, I mean, like I said, it's a very touchy subject. The only person who's even alluded to his legal problems has been Darryl Eissa and he has been able to do it very carefully. He considers Dunkin Hunter senior to be a mentor of his, but he did, you know, bring up the legal problems in, in the debate and essentially said, you know, we can revisit this conversation if Dunkin Hunter is cleared of the charges. But he never said, Oh, I'll drop out if that happens. Speaker 1: 08:47 There's one thing that former Congressman, Darrell Issa has been saying to promote his candidacy. And that is when, if he is returned to Congress in the 50th Speaker 4: 08:56 district that he's going to come in as a, a sort of a senior Congressman and not just a freshman, even though he did not run and he is not a Congressman. Now, how does that work? Right? So we decided to fact check that because that's one of the biggest sort of, uh, promises that he's making in his campaign is that he can really hit the ground running in DC. And what I found out was that representatives who returned to the house after having previously served in the house may be credited with service equal to one less than the number of terms they serve. So in other words, what that means in Darrell ISIS case was he served 10 terms for representing both the 48th and the 49th district. So once he, if he is elected, gets to Washington D C he would be credited with nine terms, which would make him a ranking minority member on several of those important committees. Speaker 4: 09:46 So he's essentially telling voters on that that means that he'll be able to have more power in representing their district and their interests than perhaps any of his opponents. There's no party endorsement. So how can Republicans make a decision among these candidates? Are there any more forums or debates scheduled? I asked Tony Kovach that question. He said probably not. So, I mean, essentially people are just going to have to inform themselves on the issues. But what was also interesting was there was about a thousand people who showed up to the debate on Monday. So it seems like this is gaining a lot of attention and there are a lot of people, Republicans in San Diego County who are wanting to learn about the different candidates and their platforms, because I think they do see this as a really pivotal moment for the 50th I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Prius razor, and Priya. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 5: 10:34 Can.

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Republican candidates for the 50th District, currently held by embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter, take aim at one another but no one got the local GOP party endorsement.
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