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Rep. Duncan Hunter Pleads Guilty, San Diego's Chaldeans And UC San Diego Composer Anthony Davis On The Intersection Of Art And Politics

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San Diego Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of misuse of campaign funds in federal court today. He faces five years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced March 17. Also, a large Chaldean Iraqi community is thriving in San Diego. And, UC San Diego composer Anthony Davis discusses his latest opera on the “Central Park Five” and his artistic approach to social and political issues.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It was just a few weeks ago that representative Dunkin Hunter was calling the investigation into him and subsequent charges, part of a deep state effort to get rid of him. But his tune changed yesterday as he agreed to plead guilty to one of the 60 charges of campaign finance violations against him. KPBS reporter Priya Schreder has been covering the case and was at the downtown courthouse this morning for Hunter's hearing and she joins us now. Priya, welcome. Thank you. We know Hunter planned to plead guilty to one charge of misusing campaign funds. Can you tell us exactly what happened in court this morning?

Speaker 2: 00:33 That's right. So they essentially outlined exactly what he was pleading guilty to and they referenced a lunch that he had with his family for his daughter's birthday in Cornetto at the hotel Del where he spent approximately $500 and then wrote that off as a campaign use. And they also referenced a lunch at a French bistro in Washington DC with another congressmen. And, uh, it was essentially a social outing, but he also wrote that down as, uh, a campaign expenses. So he essentially pleaded guilty to one count of misuse of campaign finances. The federal prosecutor said that that was the main count in their indictment. His sentencing is set for March 17th of next year at 9:00 AM and he faces up to five years in custody, three years of supervision upon release and a $250,000 fine.

Speaker 1: 01:26 Did he announce his resignation?

Speaker 2: 01:28 So he did an end. That's something that a lot of reporters were, um, sort of asking him when he was walking into the courthouse and when he came out he did give a brief statement outside where he essentially said I made mistakes. He referred to an interview that he did yesterday with local news station, K, USI. And he told us to basically look at that interview for his sentiments. And beyond that he said that he could be making more statements in the future, but wouldn't exactly say, uh, whether or not he was resigning. We did ask federal prosecutors about that. They said that resignation plans weren't specifically outlined in the negotiations, but it was understood by the defense that, uh, he would be resigning. So they said instead of looking towards his reelection, which she had been previously campaigning for over the past few months, um, that now he's looking at disgrace, imp, uh, possible incarceration and resignation.

Speaker 1: 02:25 We're the judge and prosecution team. Okay. With Hunter pleading guilty to just one out of the 60 charges,

Speaker 2: 02:31 they said repeatedly the federal prosecutors, when they were giving statements outside of the courthouse after the hearing was over, that this was the main count and that they feel as though, you know, justice had been served because he was finally taking responsibility and not saying that this was just simply mismanagement of funds or kind of pointing the finger at his wife. And so it seems like they feel as though justice has finally been served. And of course, I think everyone's kind of waiting to see what the actual sentence will be. They did say that at minimum they would seek about a year for a prison sentence, but it could be anywhere up to five. It's been reported. The reason Hunter changed his plea is because he would rather serve his time than put his kids through the public spectacle of a trial. He also mentioned he didn't want his wife to serve jail time.

Speaker 2: 03:21 Is there any indication of how his plea may impact Margaret Hunter sentencing? Right. We asked federal prosecutors that today and they said that it would have no impact over her sentencing, so it's unclear. He did mention that in his interview at Kay USAA yesterday that he keeps referring to that. The three reasons he did this was because of his three kids. A lot of the details, the allegations against him were already in the federal indictment and have been covered extensively in the press. But I think going through an actual trial and having to relive those things on a daily basis is essentially what he was referring to. Try to spare his kids and he said that, you know, they've been living in the public spotlight for so long and it's a chance for them to kind of finally be away from that spotlight. And did he say which Republican he would now want to succeed him?

Speaker 2: 04:06 He did not, but actually Carl DMIO and Amar camp in his jar who was his democratic opponent in last year's election were both at the court house today and made statements to reporters afterwards. He did say that he hopes his seat stays in Republican hands. So, uh, who that's gonna be is we're going to have to wait until the March primary to see, but we have a few contenders, Carl DeMaio, a state Senator Brian Jones and the former Congressman Darrel ice on the Republican side. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Prius Shree there. Priya, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 04:39 With Duncan Hunter's guilty play, a Republican political dynasty in the East County appears to be coming to an end. Congressman Duncan Hunter and his father also Congressman Duncan Hunter together represented the communities of the 50th district for nearly 40 years. So what comes next for the 50th district? There are already a number of Republicans running and a Democrat who came close to winning in 2018. Joining me by Skype is professor Thad Couser. He's chair of the political science department at UC San Diego and Thad, welcome to the program. Hi Marie. It's been said that Duncan Hunter just did the Republican party a huge favor by switching his plea to guilty. Do you agree?

Speaker 3: 05:22 I think so. I think the most likely outcome is that this clears the way for an untainted Republican to capture what should be a Republican safe seat. Remember, this is, this is Trump country in San Diego. This is a district, uh, where the president won in 2016 by almost 15 percentage points. And so the theory goes that really only and indicted or convicted Duncan Hunter could lose and that any other Republican can win this seat just because of this strong party advantage. And we're about to put that theory to the

Speaker 1: 05:57 now Hunter has indicated he's, he is leaving office, but he has not said anything about the timeline. If he resigns, could that trigger a special election?

Speaker 3: 06:08 My understanding is that if he resigns before Friday, uh, that that would trigger a special election, which may or you know, these things are always up in the air, which may be coordinated with the March election. Uh, these provisions about tr what triggers a special election are really designed to not make voters go too long without representation. And so it's the distance in time between, uh, the next scheduled election in which a replacement who would be put in office and the time that someone resigned. So the earlier you resigned, the longer that time, the more of a burden it is potentially on voters and, and the more state law allows, uh, allows the calling of a special election to fill that seat. But I think from some of what he said, he said, you know, his office is going to remain open and continue to serve constituents throughout this term and he will hand it over to his successor. I think what that means is that he's anticipating being in office in until 2020 and relate the end of the day. Whoever wins this race. Finally in November of 2020 is that's what's going to make the difference for who serves, uh, for the next full two year term.

Speaker 1: 07:12 Since he has put in a guilty plea, could Congress kick him out?

Speaker 3: 07:16 Congress could expel them, but they'd have to take affirmative action to do so and you need a two thirds vote. So you'd have to have both parties deciding they wanted to do this. I think now that he is functionally withdrawing from the seat, I think the party is going to focus all their attention on retaking it in 2020. So Republicans expect to win here, but Democrats have clearly coalesced behind a dynamic candidate, a Mar competent jr who ran a much stronger than expected race in 2016 he's been prolific fundraiser and I think Democrats, since there's not that much territory left to take in California, I think they see this as one of the few seats where they'll have a shot and to see if they can use Duncan Hunter story, which in some ways parallels the president Trump's right duck. And Hunter was an early endorser of president Trump. He called his trial a witch trial. Uh, he, you know, he took a very similarly Ignatius approach to his trial, similar to how the president has approached the impeachment Democrats will be trying to make that analogy a and use that to, to turn voters who may be disillusioned with the president, those, those democratic and those independent voters in this district, uh, and turn them in favor of a more competent jar.

Speaker 1: 08:25 Okay. On the Republican side, for the 50th district we have Carl DeMaio, Darryl Eissa and Brian Jones. And then as you say, the Democrat is a Mar camp in a jar. Uh, which of the candidates do you think you'd could benefit most with Duncan Hunter out of the picture?

Speaker 3: 08:40 Well, all three of the Republican candidates clearly benefit because I think whoever emerges out of this three-way fight within the Republican party, between three strong candidates, whoever emerges, will be the presumptive favorite in November because of how strongly red the district is. So I think they're all celebrating and, and a more competent jars, clear street to victory, which would be running against the damage. A Dunkin Hunter has been removed. Who's going to win that while you've got two candidates from outside the district who have, who have, uh, either run for unsuccessful in Carl de Miles's case or in Darryl ISIS case sort of fled, uh, another congressional district. They will be bringing a lot of rate in name recognition, a lot of fundraising ability. Uh, and then you have in former state Senator Brian Jones, who has someone who has a track record in that district of familiarity with those voters.

Speaker 1: 09:27 And meanwhile, you know, you noted that Democrat Amar in new jar, uh, lost by just three percentage points last year are the demographics of the 50 of the changing from the days of the Hunter dynasty.

Speaker 3: 09:39 They're changing, but at the glacial pace, that demographics changed. So this was the most Republican district in the state running into the last election. It no longer is, it's, you know, it's becoming a little bit more diverse, but it's still a demographic playing field that in a normal year with a normal set of candidates would favor Republicans. 20 is not going to be a normal election year. And we've got a really, uh, intriguing and provocative set of candidates who are going to spend, uh, the next year now in a full court press making a pitch to voters.

Speaker 1: 10:12 I've been speaking with professor Thad cows or chair of the political science department at UC San Diego that thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:00 California has the highest share of foreign born residents in the country. The biggest immigrant groups are Mexican, Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese, but in a suburb of San Diego there's a large and thriving population of cow. Demons are religious and ethnic minority from Iraq. As part of our ongoing California dream series, KPBS reported Claire Traeger, sir says that the community is now hoping for some political cloud

Speaker 2: 00:28 walk down main street in El Cahone and you feel like you're on the set of an old Western. The wide street is lined with old fashioned storefronts selling antique furniture and used clothes. On a recent Sunday, people were swing dancing to country music at a restaurant called downtown cafe. Across the street in a park, there was a different scene. More than 100 people gathered in solidarity with the protests in Iraq. They made speeches and saying in Arabic, I feel torn between my Kentucky United States and between my Homeland.

Speaker 3: 01:09 We dad slot up was a leader at the protest. She moved to the U S in the 1980s but still feels a strong connection with a rock

Speaker 2: 01:18 I can do in other States. To study end of his term, but they fell in love with the democracy and the sense of justice and the educational opportunities. El Cahone lies about 10 miles inland from San Diego and it's

Speaker 3: 01:34 [inaudible] is more than 70% white. It's politics are conservative Republican, but in recent decades the city has been changing. It's now home to one of the largest Iraqi Cal D and populations in the country estimated at over 15,000. This is something Michael called the Catholic church best Makoto strides through a large complex in El Cahone that houses a keldi in church, a Cal D in school and a Cal d'un radio station. This in the hub of the community. She works at a nonprofit that helps new arrivals adjust to their new city. Coda says once El Cahone was established as a destination for [inaudible], that's where refugees want to come. When they hear about the community here, uh, they would take their stuff after they resettle and then they come to [inaudible]. And the community here has been thriving restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry shops and corner markets are owned by keldi. Ian's catering to their community. But there is still one area where COTA would like to see [inaudible] make more progress. Political, we're not bad yet, but I'm hoping that the new generation that there would be involved with the politics and that they get into a high up positions and that may be beginning to happen. Mike [inaudible] is one of the area's top real estate agents.

Speaker 4: 03:02 70% of my clients are middle Eastern and Kelvion middle Eastern and 30% are, you know, local residents who are selling their homes to my clients

Speaker 3: 03:13 and now he's running for a seat on the city council vying to be one of the first to represent the interests of his community.

Speaker 4: 03:21 There is people who migrate and they are low income. They live in apartment and they are trying to improve their life.

Speaker 3: 03:30 Those people need reduced crime and better services. He says

Speaker 4: 03:34 the other people who was improving their lives, um, who was like trying to um, you know, improve alcohol as well by opening more business.

Speaker 3: 03:43 Those people need easier permitting processes and better city planning. So far, no one is challenging a crikey for the city council seat after years of enduring religious persecution in Iraq, the community is hoping new political power will move them from the sidelines to become an even more interwoven part of their city. Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger, sir and Claire. Welcome. Thank you. Tell us a little bit more about the Cal and community in general because I believe the Kel DNS are a minority even in Iraq. Yes, they are a religious minority in Iraq. Um, the Kelvion community is mostly Catholic and there are two Catholic, uh, Kelty and Catholic churches here in El Cahone and their services are actually in Aramaic, I found out. And then they have, um, multiple services every Sunday to fit in all of the community members cause the churches aren't, aren't quite as big.

Speaker 3: 04:43 Um, but because they were a religious minority, they also faced persecution in Iraq, which is one of the reasons why they have such a strong community bond here. Um, when they moved to the United States. How long have many of the Cal Dean's been in this countries since the Iraq war yet? Um, there have been multiple waves of immigration, um, starting actually back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, um, that's when many came to the United States as refugees. Um, because of the, the chaos after the Iran Iraq war. And then again, as you say, in 2003 after the U S invasion of Iraq, um, there was a lot of sectarian violence and civil war and the rise of ISIS and that led to more persecution against Cal DNS, which led to another wave of people moving here to the U S and what kind of changes has [inaudible] undergone since the Kelvion community has grown there?

Speaker 3: 05:37 Well, the downtown in El Cahone, um, has had a huge change. There's a lot of businesses catering to the middle Eastern community, um, restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry stores, um, event spaces. Uh, there are a lot of signs in Arabic, especially in downtown. Um, and the community has really involved in local politics. I started following this story after [inaudible] first decided to switch to having district elections for city council instead of citywide. And members of the community were very involved in that process. They attended a lot of the workshops and drew up their own district map that would have created one really strong majority middle Eastern district and then that map was not chosen. Um, but that seems to actually have further bolstered their political efforts and now they even, for example, have a committee, a committee that's advising on the city's climate action plan. You know, the senior described in your report with the sort of line dancing on one side of the street and a protest over Iraq on the other.

Speaker 3: 06:39 It makes me ask, are there tensions between the old time residents and the Colombians? I think in some ways there are. I mean, the city has changed a lot. I haven't been able to find anyone willing to say, you know, straight out, we don't like the way that the city has changed. But there, there were attentions around maybe more prominent members of the community. For example, uh, I didn't get to this in the story, but Ben kalash show, um, he was elected to the El Cahone city council before there were districts and then he resigned earlier this year because of a variety of scandals. Other members of the city council actually ended up suing him for using city money on his campaign. Um, but if you ask members of the Kelvion community, they say, you know, he doesn't speak for them. He really doesn't. They don't want him to be an example of their community or demonstrate the, the values they want to hold up.

Speaker 3: 07:31 And as the Kelty and community is still growing in alcohol and the Trump administration has cut down refugee resettlement to a trickle, almost nonexistent, right? No, not right now. It doesn't seem to be, um, it's hard to track exactly. But the state data shows that refugees, there are no Iraqi refugees to San Diego County last year. That doesn't mean immigration data overall, but it doesn't seem like right now there are many people coming from your report. It seems like many in the community are doing quite well. Is this a wealthy community? Right. So as I said, it's a little bit hard to track exactly because census data doesn't single out middle Eastern, um, as a racial group and many members of the community actually would identify themselves as white. Um, so you can't get like hard data on it, but everyone you talk to says yes, the community is doing well because there's such a strong support network for newcomers and family members help each other start businesses and there's this big value on starting and owning businesses.

Speaker 3: 08:30 Okay. So as members of the Cal DN community move into local politics, is that expected to change the conservative Republican character of Elka hones politics? I think in some ways, yes. Um, it's hard to say exactly for sure because, uh, some members of the community are conservative in some respects and vote Republican, but members of the community may have a big impact on other local issues. Um, they're really focused on downtown and doing projects there. For example, with the climate action plan committee that I mentioned, they're having a big push toward making the city more walkable and with more public transportation because that's what they're used to, uh, back home. And how was Micah Crawley's campaign going? Does he have a good chance of getting on the city council? Well, El Cahone doesn't vote until November, so it's still a little early at this point, so there may be more candidates getting into the race.

Speaker 3: 09:25 Um, and it doesn't seem like he's actually done that much campaigning at this point. When I spent the afternoon with him, he seemed very busy. He's a real estate agent. He said he got about 20 calls while he had his phone turned off for an hour during our interview. And in El Cahone and other smaller cities, the city council position is only a part time position, so he would continue probably to work. And he also has two young children, including a three month old baby. And so he says his wife thinks he's crazy for taking on another responsibility, but I expect as it gets more towards the summer, um, he'll devote more time to his campaign and then we'll, we'll be able to follow up more than I've been speaking with. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger, sir Claire. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 So much is conveyed through art. And one composer has used his work to reflect on important social and political issues of the day from the central park five to the life and times of Malcolm X composer and longtime professor of music at UCS D Anthony Davis feels it's an artist's responsibility to address current events and politics. He'll speak about his latest opera and artistic approach to issues happening in our society on December 7th at the central library. But before that he joins us in studio. Anthony, welcome. Oh, thank you. Thank you. So your latest work is an opera called central park five, based on the notorious case of five teenagers of color, falsely accused and convicted of rape and assault after a 1989 attack on a white jogger, one in which Donald Trump played an infamous role. The opera speaks to much of your work over the decades and that you'd like to focus on current events, politics, and history makers. Why do these issues inspire you?

Speaker 2: 00:58 Well, I think it goes back to, um, when I was, uh, first and co I've always had a very intense interest in politics. And I think at one point I wanted to be a political science major when I was going to school, to college. And, uh, I was also interested in philosophy and, and I, I scrapped, I was doing music all the time. I was playing piano and stuff. So that kind of took over. But it allows me to combine what my, my interests, both, you know, in art, in art and music and also in, in a political sphere. And, uh, one thing that's fascinating to me is always the parallel between artistic developments, the developments in, in music and culture and what's happening in, in the, in political and politics and the social sphere. So, uh, when I did X, for example, there was a direct parallel between the evolution of, uh, up, when you look at the Malcolm X, his story and, and his emergence as a, a leader in the 1960s and late fifties. You know, Eddie, and it's always a kind of corresponding development in music. And, uh, in central park five, I think there's the same, same kind of synergy between music and, and, and politics. You know, the emergence of hip hop and, and especially in 1989, which was a pivotal year,

Speaker 3: 02:20 no, uh, uh, upset, uh, eh, out to see [inaudible] stop back. Ah, you have something to [inaudible]. Uh, [inaudible] uh, I see that as

Speaker 2: 03:00 kind of critical point, that juncture in terms of culture as Ellis in terms of the political struggle and where we had to face and then also the emergence of Trump at the same time. Do you think that art is a way to give people more context and a better understanding of history and, and social issues that are happening today even? Yeah, I think kids are, it's way to way to give them more context and also to let them identify and feel the emotion of it. That it's not just intellectual, it's not just, uh, just, you know, uh, facts and, and history. But also that, that th that, uh, to, to see what it's like to be, you know, Cory wise and in jail for 13 years for something you didn't do. And so that, that, uh, that identification is very important and I think it's something you could do through music and art in a way that, that can't be done in straight history.

Speaker 2: 03:55 What elements do you pull from when you're putting together and composing your opera? Well, our Kapost from, well, I pull from a lot of things. One thing, uh, I've always loved New York. I'm a new Yorker, so at heart, I mean I lived in New York till I was four, but I always feel I'm a new Yorker. My parents lived in 130 eighth street and Harlem. Uh, and so I've always identified myself that way. And, uh, so I always think about New York, New York to me is also music meets Duke Ellington. It's, you know, bebop, it's, it's mittens. It's also, uh, hip hop and Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus, all the kind of history of the music that's embedded in, in New York city. And so, uh, when I do an opera and when I do the music, I always reflect on that. At the beginning of central park, they sing about Harlem, a black and tan fantasy, which Richard will, Richard Wesley.

Speaker 2: 04:56 Okay. Black and tan. Okay. That's a Duke Ellington, you know, Duke Ellington, that's Duke Ellington's Harlem. I use that. They're there. There's actually a moment in the opera when I actually use some of the [inaudible], some, some are black and tan fantasy appears in it. And also, uh, you know, thinking about Charles Mingus and, and black state, the Senator lady, you know, so this is also though, that's New York to me too. So New York is, uh, filled with music and film. And that I can draw upon that, uh, in, in terms of portraying the city betraying the conflict and also portraying a conflict, you know, uh, this kind of war for central park. You know, Trump on the one hand being sort of the force of gentrification, the force of, you know, uh, trying to in a way take Carl home away from us, you know, so, so, uh, and it was very telling to me when I was looking back at, I saw watching a video of demonstrators who were demonstrating white demonstrators who were demonstrating against the central park five and on the placard they had do the right thing. That of course is right from do the right thing from Spike's movie, which came out in 89. So in a way I always think that when the central park five were convicted and, and prosecuted, they were really prosecuting radio Raheem is what they would think they were doing. And, and it was really about a war against hip hop against this young generation and the emergence of an, of a new culture and a new form that was a threat to the white establishment.

Speaker 1: 06:39 When you look at, at other artists, do you think are doing a good job of putting a spotlight on current events and using their art as, as that medium?

Speaker 2: 06:48 Yeah. So I think you know, the number of us who think that way. I mean, some of us in in weird way like Kanye West, but you know, I'm not sure about his motivation set, uh, but, but a lot of us, I'll be, we were thinking about it also being a positive force for the community, for the African American community. That's always been very important to me that I think about young people being proud of who we are and proud of what we've had to overcome and proud of what the potential and possibilities are for the future.

Speaker 1: 07:22 I've been speaking with Anthony Davis, composer and longtime professor at UCS D. Anthony, thanks for joining us. Thanks so much. Anthony Davis will be at the San Diego central library December 7th from three to four 30 to talk about his latest work, the central park five and his artistic approach to social and political issues. Thanks again, Anthony. Thanks so much.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.