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Ammar Campa-Najjar Discusses His Second Run Congress

Speaker 1: 00:00 One of the most high profile races in San Diego County is the contest in the 50th congressional district. Three Republicans and one Democrat are the major candidates trying to succeed disgraced former Congressman Duncan D Hunter. The 50th is a traditionally conservative district that has had Duncan Hunter father or son as its representative for 40 years. We're interviewing candidates for the 50th district starting with Democrat Amar camp in a jar. And Amar, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. In 2018, you were running against Dunkin Hunter who had already been indicted for campaign finance violations. You lost by about 9,000 votes. Now there's no Duncan Hunter in the race. How does that change the campaign? You're running Speaker 2: 00:47 questions. So, you know, I've been running for three years for a two year term and I'm pretty committed to this race. I didn't jump into this race because it looked good for me. I've been committed to this district for awhile. And uh, look, we, we run a really hard campaign against Congressman Duncan Hunter. No small feat. A 40 year dynasty, nearly half a century even indicted with two months to go until the election. That was a really large undertaking. Most people would say we came within 1.7%, 1.7% more. We would have gotten 50% plus one and this would've been a different conversation, but nearly half the district voted for me. So that told me that we had a mandate to run again. And so I think that this time, the way we're going to win is by, by starting stronger to finish stronger. And I think we're uniquely positioned to do that. Speaker 2: 01:29 I'm the only candidate who's running, who actually wants to represent everyone. If you heard my opponents, they're all saying they want to keep this seat in power, uh, for under one party versus the other. I'm the only one who's saying, let's put people over politics, country over party and lead with our values. And um, I'm the only one that, of the top three of us who are running, who actually lives in the district. I'm the only one of the three me, Isiah and Carl who will actually be able to vote in this election. So I think, you know, that's an important prerequisite. You ought to live where you're trying to run and I think that uniquely positions me to win a broad swath of the voters come March 3rd Speaker 1: 02:04 well, when you're a Democrat, you kind of have to put country over party in the 50th district because there are about 46,000 more Republicans than Democrats. How do you go about appealing to women? Speaker 2: 02:15 How applicant voters in your district? I think that you should always put country over party no matter what seat you're running for. But the district is 40% Republican and 60% the rest of us, independents and Democrats, there's more of us than there are than them, but we want to bring everyone together. That's how you can really legislate and govern. And my message has always been, look, I'm being from East County raised by a single mom. You see the world a little bit different and I'm just fed up with politicians who look down to people. I've looked up to my whole life working class people. We see politicians give big banks and big companies and billionaires, all the breaks while the rest of us are working more for less. And I think it's time that we give the middle class tax cut that we lower the cost of housing and healthcare and the cost of living and that we start work in this country, not just wealth. Speaker 2: 03:01 So that's my message that I'm taking across the district and it's being well received by everybody in the district, not just Democrat. So with the partisan divide that we hear so much about in this country and in the 50th district as well, those are the issues you think that are going to come across, no matter what party someone is. I do. And I think the overarching message that I bring is, you know, ending the era of corruption and moving forward to our unified future. A new generation of leadership that doesn't look at politics between the left versus the right, but it's really a politics of the outsiders, like all of us versus the insiders, the political class in Washington who's really using all of us for their own, their own benefit while we fight for scraps and the rest of real America. And that's really the fight that I'm waging here in the 50th, not a fight between Democrats and Republicans, but all of us together trying to chart a new course forward as people with common aspirations and common dreams. Speaker 2: 03:51 Well, let me try to break this down with some specific issues. You've talked a lot about the fact that you own guns and support the second amendment for many second amendment supporters. What that means is no federal laws restricting gun sales. Do you agree with that? I think that there are a lot of things that gun owners like me believe in that are common sense. Universal background checks. 90% of people including gun owners, NRA members support background checks and being a believer. The second amendment myself, I believe it means reading the second amendment and our founders left us some wisdom in the second amendment of how to reduce gun violence and also protect our rights. If you read the second amendment, it says quote unquote a well regulated militia. So let's look at what the military does before you're issued a weapon. You go through a background check, safe stores training, um, and the psych evaluation and you learn how to use your gun before we even issued your actual weapon. Speaker 2: 04:46 We should do that in the civilian world as well for civilian gun owners like myself. If we did that, we would curb a lot of the gun violence in this country. And other common sense things that even president Trump on a good day supports like the red flag laws like, um, you know, the, the getting rid of the bump stocks and the conversion kits and the high capacity magazines that turn a civilian weapon into a weapon of war. We do all those things that will not infringe on anyone's second amendment rights. It'll protect our rights and protect, um, our communities at the same time. And I think we in the second amendment and leaning on that wisdom of a well regulated militia is our way out of this problem of gun violence in this country. Speaking of president Trump, uh, would you have voted to impeach him? That's a good question. Speaker 2: 05:30 It's a hypothetical question, but it's an important one. Uh, clearly there was some wrongdoing that was done by president Trump. The question is, is it rise to the level of, uh, high crimes and misdemeanors, high crimes, not low crimes. And I do think that we have to hold this president accountable. I think that it is, uh, important that we review all the evidence members of Congress have access to public information, the confidential information and the ability to question witnesses. So I think without pre-judging the, you know, doing what Mitch McConnell did, I think it would be important for me to evaluate all that information and make that determination. The sad truth is we know that the vote tomorrow is going to fall on partisan lines. Republicans are going to vote one way. Democrats going to vote one way. And I think a lot of Americans are going to feel like the process is broken. Speaker 2: 06:15 They're going to feel that there's no accountability, there's no transparency, that it was deeply bipartisan that was deeply partisan. And then we're wondering is there any way to hold a president accountable? And some people might feel discouraged, but that's no excuse to shy away from your responsibility because you know, some people feel like this president might, uh, do something that might render an illegitimate result. That's the concern people have. Our job as voters and citizens is to make sure that no politician can get within cheating distance of winning an election. Legitimate, which means let's make 20, 20 a year of massive turnout. Clearly our institutions and our government and our democracy is broken and it's not going to save us this time. We have to save it. And the way we do that is getting out in record numbers. If our government isn't willing to do it's responsibility, it's left to us as citizens to do our job. Speaker 2: 07:14 Now, one of the major areas of difference between most Republican and democratic politicians is their commitment to take action on climate change. What do you think the federal government should do to address climate change? Look, the federal government has been doing something. The DOD gave the military, gave Donald Trump in 2019 the report on climate change and they said, this is an AOC. This is the defense department saying that climate change is the number one national security threat that we face as a planet. And it has an a as a country. And they've said that there are 80 mission critical, uh, U S military bases in mainland America. The two thirds of which are not fully combat ready because the coastlines are rising because of hurricanes and droughts and mudslides and fires that are caused by climate change. So we should have a world war II mobilization to combat climate change. Speaker 2: 08:04 Get rid of all the corporate welfare that we give to the fossil fuel industry level, the playing field, turn this climate crisis into a renewable energy revolution that will create good paying jobs and create a, just transition for people who rely on traditional industries of fossil fuels and make sure that they have the ability to have dignity and have a good experience getting back into the workforce. But we have to treat this seriously because in 12 years, scientists and the military says that in 12 years, if we don't do anything about this, we won't be able to be even breathe a breath of fresh air. So this is a matter of not just being a tree hugger who loves the environment. It's a matter of national security. It's a housing issue. How many of us know friends who have lost their homes and fires? And right now we're having a hard time figuring out where to build more housing because of the threat of wildfire. Speaker 2: 08:50 So this is not just an environmental issue, it's, and it's a national security issue. It's a healthcare issue. It's a housing issue. It's an all of the above issue and we could turn this calamity into our greatest promise if we come together. And I think San Diego is uniquely positioned. We're a pioneer of innovation here in San Diego. We share, uh, you know, we're one of the biggest military installations in the country in the world. We could bring together all of our resources and our expertise and talents to really lead the way in this revolution for renewable energy. What you've been talking about sounds like a great deal. Like the green new deal. Do you support that? So I actually don't think it's the green new deal. The green new deal is a little bit more aspirational than that. What I'm referring to is a little bit more practical and it can be done in the next 12 years. Speaker 2: 09:33 I think some of the things that are in the green new deal, uh, are a little bit, um, they're well intentioned, but they go think beyond what is possible. And the green new deal is not legislation. It's a nonbinding resolution. It's an aspirational manifesto, if you will. It's not legislation that has no financial, uh, appropriations tied to it. It's still kind of in the conception stage. Um, but when I'm in Congress, I will introduce and work on legislation that is practical, that could be done and this very narrow moment of time. Right now I think climate change has to be looked through, looked at through a lens of urgency and not aspiration because we don't have that much time to turn it around. Let's talk about immigration. You say you support the building of some sections of a border wall, right? I mean, so think about this right now in San Diego, we don't think about it, but we have a wall in San Diego in the nineties president bill Clinton, a Democrat built part of the wall. Speaker 2: 10:26 Here's what I believe. I believe in having a mile by mile assessment of our needs along the border. It could be strengthening our ports of entry were $2 million a day, come through San Ysidro and making sure that we're the, you know, the ports of entry is where a majority of the drugs and guns and smuggling comes from. Anyways, not just any part of the border, but the ports of entry. It could be that, it could be personnel, it could be technology, or it could be some physical barriers and that is based on good governance, not just a slogan from one president or one party, but what do we really need to make sure that we address our border policy needs? And of course, no solution is complete without addressing the immigration aspect of as well, dealing with the dreamers, dealing with the 12 million people who are here in undocumented fashion in a realistic way. Speaker 2: 11:12 And there's some policy proposals that even my opponent, Daryl ice in 2013 he's running away from it now, but he actually proposed giving 12 million undocumented individuals six years of status until we figured out what to do with them in a more permanent fashion, gives them an option to get citizenship. That was in 2013 I actually agreed with that and if I was in Congress, I would've signed on to that. But now given the reality, I think he's running away from his own record, but I embraced that idea and I think it's a good way to address the immigration portion of this comprehensive problem that deals with the border and the immigration crisis that we have in our hands globally. You say that if you are elected in the 50th district, even as a Democrat, you'll be the most conservative member of Speaker 1: 11:54 Congress from San Diego. What do you mean by that? Speaker 2: 11:57 It's a little tongue in cheek. I mean if you think about who's in office now, Mike 11 liberal, Scott Peters, a liberal Juan Vargas, a liberal and whoever replaces Susan Davis I presume is going to be liberal as well. So being the most conservative Congressman and that lineup is a pretty low bar. I think the fact that I own guns and I live in East County, that by itself it makes me more conservative. But being the most conservative in San Diego County still makes me the most progressive in the 50th district's history. Just because I believe in, you know, climate change is real. That I believe that we should make sure everyone could get access to health care, that we, you know, treat people with dignity, that we have comprehensive immigration reform, not just nibbling around the edges. And the most progressive thing that I offer, it's the mother of all of our solutions is government reform. Speaker 2: 12:45 When I get to Congress, I'm going to introduce an amendment to overturn citizens United. So to make sure that corporations aren't people and that money doesn't equal speech. The only individuals could donate to this, that the campaigns and not special interests of any type. And if we do that, we will be bound by nothing but our own imagination, our own wilt to deliver results for everyday people. And that I think makes me the most progressive Congressman in the 50th history, probably the most progressive Congressman in many respects. But when it comes to, you know, not believing we should open up the border, uh, not wanting to rack up the national debt, not wanting to take everyone's guns away as a gun owner myself. That I guess in many people's minds makes me more moderate than the average Democrat. Speaker 1: 13:26 So two 50th district candidates, Republicans, Carl de Mio and Daryl Eissa are leading in fundraising. This past reporting period showed that Demira raised over double your campaign. How are you going to try to overcome that? Speaker 2: 13:40 Oh, I think they're trying to raise money to overcome the fact that I'm beating them in the polls. The polls are what matter in the end so they could have all the money in the world. We know a lot of people who run for president, we have a lot of money and aren't really scratching the surface of polls and aren't going to do well in the primary. So that's not the most important thing. Money and politics is not the most important thing, contrary to come and believe. But I will tell you this, we have a lot of money. We have a million on hand close to what our opponents have. Um, and I'm confident that we be able to do this. But honestly that's also why I'm running for Congress is I'm tired of the fact that we have to spend so much money, raised so much money and beg people for money when we should be actually talking to them about their vote and about the issues. Speaker 2: 14:19 And that's why I want to get to Congress. We're going to have government reform to kind of curb the expense of running for office and also make sure that, you know, with all due respect, I think Carl Dima knows that he kind of had this shell corporation called reform California, this pass through organization that he knew he was building to eventually use to raise money off of that list for other things that were not related to running for office. And he used it to build a list off of these really popular agendas of his with the, I have never solving anything but only raising money for his own personal benefit and isn't it time that we just turn the page on having people run for office or hold office who are doing it for their own financial benefit in this case, trying to boost his own political career as opposed to delivering on these ballot measures that he was advocating for, most of which have failed. Speaker 2: 15:10 So you know, and obviously we have their eyes. So who is self-funding his campaign mainly? So my main focus is making sure that I talk to voters and the end that's going to be what matters the most. But for me, I think we're raising a lot of money. We've raised I think $2 million. The average donation is $30 so if you want to help us out, go to Kappa campaign.com and give to a corporate free Democrat who's running in the 50th well let me ask you finally, what are you hoping is going to tip the scales for you on election day? Is it a big turnout? Is it dissatisfaction with president Trump? What is that key thing that's going to make it happen for you as far as you're concerned? I think it's because I'm the consummate outsider and this district has voted for, they voted for Donald Trump because they want something different. Speaker 2: 15:52 This is different. I offer something very different. Their eyes, the offers more of the same 20 more years of what we've had before and if you're not happy with what you're living with, well then you could point to him for part of that problem. The same thing we'll call the mile. He offers the same old, same, if you want somebody who's committed to the people of the 50th, someone who you know lost an election, came close and is continuing to run, didn't just lose a race or resigned from a race and move to another area because it would help them politically. I'm putting the 50th first and I think people are going to recognize that in this district people really do appreciate someone who's of them, from them fighting for them and I will stock up my ability to do that. And desire to deliver against anybody else running in this race. I have been speaking with Democrat and Mark Hampton ajar, who's running in the 50th congressional district, and you can see all the KPBS selection reports@kpbs.org Mara, thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us. Thank you so much.

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Three Republicans and one Democrat are the major candidates trying to succeed former Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to misspending campaign funds.
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