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Duncan Hunter Resigns

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On Monday, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter will resign. There will be no special election for the 50th Congressional District. Local vets reveal their thoughts on the situation with Iran. And homelessness is spreading to the suburbs.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Duncan B Hunter will resign from Congress on Monday. What will happen with his seat? It wasn't so long ago that Republicans dominated elections in San Diego County. Times have certainly changed veterans of the war in Iraq. Talk about the situation in the middle East today, and homelessness reaches the San Diego suburbs. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS Roundtable starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:31 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:35 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPB as Roundtable today. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh reported [inaudible] either of KPBS news, Andrew [inaudible], senior investigative reporter for voice of San Diego and KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler. Well, Monday, we'll Mark the first time in 40 years that a man named Duncan Hunter is not representing San Diegans in Congress. After taking over his father's seat, Dunkin D Hunter is resigning after pleading guilty last month to a felony, appropriating a quarter million in campaign funds for personal use. We've discussed the details of this crime and the plea bargain with his wife. Uh, his wife took earlier several times on the show. So pre-lit start instead here with what happens now. No special election to replace a Hunter.

Speaker 3: 01:24 That's right. So Dunkin Hunter changed his plea in early December and how do you resign before December six the state, a law would have mandated that a special election be held, but because he didn't actually officially resign the resignation, it goes into effect this Monday, January 13th at the close of business, it was up to governor Gavin Newsome as to whether or not to hold a special election and we found out that he's decided not to do it. And part of the reason that we're guessing is that it would've been too hard to at this point, consolidate it with the general election that's scheduled for March 3rd that's when, yeah, the primary would have been held. I mean it will be held for the 50th district. And so at this point the military and overseas ballots are being sent out by Michael WVU, the registrar of voters next Friday. So it would have been very difficult logistically to try to add this election onto that ballot as well.

Speaker 1: 02:15 So Hunter's name will appear on that primary ballot.

Speaker 3: 02:18 He never registered. So it was kind of interesting to watch this because he did actually compete in the San Diego County Republican debate when they were trying to get an endorsement from the County Republicans. Um, and he participated in that debate. So all indications to all of the constituents in the 50th was that he was running. But when push came to shove, he actually never submitted his paperwork to the registrar voters. So his name won't be on the ballot.

Speaker 1: 02:42 I see. I mean, and, and it's confusing course, no representation for the next year then for folks in that, in that district. But really it's kinda been that way for a long time. For a year since then. It wasn't on committees. He couldn't vote. We had the big vote on impeachment there. And of course one of those not voting was, was Duncan Hunter.

Speaker 3: 02:58 Yeah, that's right. There is about

Speaker 1: 03:00 750,000 constituents in this district. I got a chance to go up to Alpine, uh, this past week when the governor made his announcement that there wouldn't be a special election. And unfortunately, as you mentioned, many of them are kind of used to not having as much power as you normally would see with a typical Congressman because he had been stripped of his committee assignments. As you said, he hasn't been allowed to vote for a while, but most of the people I spoke to regardless of party affiliation said that they were really hoping for a special election. Um, I will say that I spoke to his office and they said that all of the staffers will still be there. They're, they're continuing to get paid. So, um, the constituents can reach out to them if they're having trouble with federal agencies like the VA or whatever, but they're not, yeah, they're not going to be able to take legislative action in Washington. All right. You interviewed several of the candidates for a hundred seats list here from one, uh, Carl de Milo, what he said about the special election

Speaker 4: 03:57 because he delayed his resignation. We now face the prospect of the 50th district having no voice in Congress for a full year. Uh, and there are important issues that need to be addressed. And the 50th district voters deserve a voice in Congress.

Speaker 1: 04:12 All right. And the pension, there will still be a pension here for Congress and former Congressman soon to be former a con Hunter.

Speaker 3: 04:19 Yeah, it's, it's kind of interesting and we've seen a lot of articles in the UT talking about just the massive amount of legal fees that Duncan Hunter has accrued during the past year dealing with all of these federal charges. Um, so I'm sure that'll all put that. He also was obviously in the military for several years and he's likely going to receive a retirement from the military as well. So, um, but that's something that's obviously caused a lot of chatter and controversy up in the 50th that someone who you know has been dealing with these kinds of charges and it's pleading guilty and is now facing five years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine when he's finally sentenced in March, could actually still receive a pension from the government.

Speaker 1: 05:00 Well, let's hear from the, uh, the Democrat a, a Mark competent jr who almost came close to defeating him. Uh, uh, last year running again this time out. Let's hear his comments.

Speaker 4: 05:12 No, I think, you know, uh, it would be a shame to have the seat go unfilled for a year. There are needs that the people in this district have, um, that I think somewhat will get served by hunters remaining, uh, staff. But there's a big difference to having a Congressman pick up the phone and make a phone call to get things done.

Speaker 1: 05:31 All right. And of course, still a very strong Republican, uh, district here. Who are the other Republicans besides a Demio we mentioned?

Speaker 3: 05:37 Right. So Darryl Eissa, who was a nine term Congressman in that area is running, he's one of the wealthiest members of Congress ever. So he certainly has a lot of money to help him campaign. I'm also state Senator Brian Jones is running, so Brian Jones, Carl DeMaio, who was a former San Diego city Councilman and also radio host or running from the Republican side. And then as you just saw, just there a Mark Hampton and Shar from the Democrat side who as you mentioned, he only lost a Dunkin Hunter in the 2018 election by fewer than 9,000 votes. So he came extremely close. And, and what is, uh, one of the most reliably red districts in the state of California? So a lot of people anticipate that he could be a front runner. Um, come March 3rd.

Speaker 1: 06:21 Andy, any idea, any polling yet or any end via which way this may be going here?

Speaker 5: 06:25 I haven't seen any specific polling on that. I do think, you know, a market manager had the benefit in 2018 of running against somebody who was under indictment. Uh, that is not a benefit that will be available to them in 2020, whichever Republican, uh, emerges through the, the March primary will have considerably less baggage than Dunkin on her head in 2018.

Speaker 1: 06:44 Yeah. So we'll see what happens. Well, that is a nice segue into our next, uh, next segment here. Some may believe the 50th congressional district is still a safe Republican seat. But how is the party fairing in the rest of the County? Those of us who've been around here a few decades, remember well in the GOP dominated local politics in the city and County of San Diego and North up through orange County. That seems a distant memory now in Andy. Your analysis this week noted even in 2019 wasn't really an election year. Republicans still managed to lose some seats.

Speaker 5: 07:15 Yeah, I lost three seats in 2018 or 2019 without a single election based on party defections. They lost the, uh, County. Uh, the district attorney seat summer Stephan, uh, became an independent Brian main shine in the assembly, decided to become a Democrat and Mark Kersey on the city council decided to move from Republican independent. So that's, those are three seats that they've held for a very long time, that were reliably Republican, that fell out of their hands even without a single vote being cast. And now in 2020, uh, they're staring down the barrel of losing the mayor's office, the after they've controlled it for 26 out of 27 years. Uh, just the one period where, uh, Bob Filner was mayor before he had to resign, uh, broke up that term, uh, and they could lose control of the County board of supervisors, which they've controlled for decades. Um, so that if that were to happen, that would put them in, uh, into the position of not having control of the County, not having control of the city council, having lost control of SANDAG through, uh, various different, uh, changes that were made there. Uh, the mayor's office, uh, the district attorney's office, uh, just going back, uh, you know, forget 10 years, just going back to three, four years ago. Uh, it's just a completely different playing field politically in San Diego right now.

Speaker 1: 08:29 Where have you gone, Pete Wilson County turns this lonely ISD. You, well, let's talk about, uh, how not that long ago San Diego was this anchor for Republican statewide, right up through orange County here. They counted on that too, to boost and offset what was happening in, uh, in Los Angeles and the Bay area.

Speaker 5: 08:45 Yeah, yeah, exactly. So the, the implications of losing Republican controlling or in San Diego exceed far beyond, uh, just the San Diego city council and local governments. Here. I talked to Mike Madrid, who's a conservative and Republican political consultant across the state, and he said, you referred to it as the official strategy, which was to counteract the major votes that statewide candidates would, democratic candidates would get in San Francisco and LA. Uh, the path to victory for Republicans was you need to dominate in orange County and San Diego. You've got a lot of people here and you could use those votes to stack up against San Francisco and LA. And then that would turn the battlefield into the inland empire in the central Valley. And if you could win there, then you could win office. And he said, basically a without San Diego County, that path to statewide office for Republicans is gone.

Speaker 5: 09:33 Uh, it's finished. And he says that he doesn't really think that there's any way for the Republicans to stage a rebirth. Rather he thinks we'll see a political coalition change where you get basically Democrat on Democrat races where you have a, maybe a more progressive labor aligned, far farther left candidate versus a more, uh, centrist business friendly chamber of commerce Democrat. Uh, and that will be the new political dynamic. And we're already really seeing some of that in local races here. Uh, as, and you know, it's, it's just remarkable that, uh, you know, only a few years ago we, you had Republicans kind of counting their chickens here.

Speaker 3: 10:10 Well, Carl, tomorrow, as we said, is running for Congress in East County here. He had a take on this as well. Let's hear what he has to say.

Speaker 4: 10:17 Uh, they've lost, uh, virtually all their seats in California because they're not putting up a strong enough fight. Um, it's lackluster. It's lazy, it's a lousy, and, and so what I want to do is bring new energy into the Republican party of California, and I want to be the voice of the forgotten Californians. I'm ready to fight. They're ready to surrender now. That's what got us into the super majority status that the Democrats now hold in our state.

Speaker 3: 10:43 I guess they were lazy not getting onto the gas tax that he was pushing. One of the interesting things that [inaudible] pointed out was that him and Brian Jones are the only two who actually live in the 50th district. And he said, if Carl de Mio is so worried about, you know, uh, Republicans taking back California, then him and Daryl ISOs should run in the districts that they live in and, you know, defeat a Democrat instead of all the Republicans stacking, you know, everything in the 50th.

Speaker 5: 11:09 Yeah. So, you know, T to Carl's point, I think, uh, Jason Rowe, who, uh, was actually a political consultant that used to work with him, uh, kind of echoed that same point and said, what has happened is that Republicans have unilaterally disarmed. They've looked at demographic shifts, they've looked at changes in voter registration, and they've said, all right, the writing's on the wall. We need to make peace with this situation and figure out how we can, uh, how we can achieve some of our ends without having to go to bat and actually make strong conservative arguments. Uh, and, and, and Duke it out at the ballot box. So he said, you know, the donor class, the people like the chamber of commerce, the building industry association, the restaurant association, all these groups that have been the, the, the, the money-based behind the Republicans elected all these times have started to look for other opportunities. And that has hastened this situation where demographics take you so far. And then I'll, everybody looks at that situation. It becomes a feedback loop and it, and it starts to accelerate everything.

Speaker 6: 12:06 Yeah. And they're not wrong, are they, I mean, a lot of discussion about how Republicans handled immigration in this date, that that actually has cost them going forward. But it's really more than just a couple of different issues. It's just a country where we're starting to sell swords. Blue areas are becoming blowers. Red areas are becoming redder. So there's just, the demographics are never going to work in their favor.

Speaker 5: 12:29 Yeah, I think that's right. And I think you kind of see that in what they have outlined as a potential strategy for them going forward, which is not a, we just need to adopt the things that Donald Trump is talking about on a national level. Bring them here and give them a nice voice and maybe we'll start winning. Rather they say we need to look for some issues that may not have an ideological predisposition. And if we can cobble together enough of those from people who may not be on our team, but they can vote with us on these things that maybe that, that'll give us a lifeline. Specifically, Jason Rowe mentioned that pension reform was that issue in the last decade and that you need to find something like that, uh, going forward. And he says that the thing that he thinks it is is, uh, what's happening at SANDAG right now with, uh, you know, shifting highway spending from highways to public transit and that maybe you can build a culture war out of that.

Speaker 1: 13:22 All right, we're out of time in this segment, but plenty more to talk about, especially in this election year and it's gonna be fascinating going forward. Well, a week ago, president Trump ordered a bombing that killed her. Anne's military leader around, responded by carefully firing ballistic missiles at two U S facilities in Iraq with no U S or Iraqi casualties, a stand down or as reported then possible Kalama collateral, I shouldn't say damage. It appears an airliner taking off Ukraine may have accidentally been down by an Iranian antiaircraft missile killing 176 passengers from a half dozen nations, including 63 Canadians. And that brings to mind in 1988 incident that made international news at UAH warship shutdown in a Rainium passenger plane killing 299 and 90 people. 66 of those children, San Diego based captain's wife, subsequently survived a pipe bomb planted in a van she was driving in university city. Such are Wars unintended consequences, especially in the never ending middle East conflicts. And Steve, uh, service members from basis here certainly have opinions based on personal experience. And you interviewed several of them this week. Overall, what were your takeaways from those interviews?

Speaker 6: 14:31 Well, you know, this was an opportunity to interview veterans of the Iraq war to get a sense from them. You're like, what do they see when they see them? What do they see that we don't see? And so we did a panel here in the studio here talking to folks we get, and, uh, unsurprisingly people are weary of war. They're supportive in as, as some of the folks we talked to were, uh, supportive of costumes of the money being killed. But, um, certainly others were very, very reticent about the idea that we are going to once again have another hot war in the middle East.

Speaker 1: 15:06 All right, let's hear from a couple of those war war veteran first step as, uh, Steve Badea question that a us goals in the region,

Speaker 7: 15:14 are we there for the long haul to make sure we're stabilizing the country and rebuilding it as we promised and turning it into another Korea? Or are we going to pull out and really just focus on diplomatic solutions.

Speaker 1: 15:28 Now this exchange of attacks, uh, that we saw and I mentioned in the outset here, sec out and military personnel families on edge here in San Diego this week.

Speaker 6: 15:38 Certainly everybody's worried about whether or not there's going to be world war three though for the most part it, it things seem to be on hold. We had a number of troops as part of an air ground task force, Marine air ground task force that were already in Kuwait. Some of them were moved up to Baghdad. We've got elements of the 82nd airborne division that are going there from the East coast, but it looks like as the week comes to a close, we're not seeing more deployments to the middle East.

Speaker 1: 16:04 All right, one more clip here from uh, your interviews. Uh, Fadi Matti was an Iraq Iraqi interpreter during the war. Let's hear that.

Speaker 4: 16:11 My opinion, I'm a firm believer of cut the head of the snake and then the rest of the body crumbles. I ran as the head of the snake. If we put Iran, it's a place, Iraq is immediately is going to stay with us. All these guys around at this point, not attack Iran, but severely injured their arms and Iraq or cut their arms in Iraq. The last one to see a doubling down. Yeah, the last strike on Solomonic and a boom. I had didn't want this and my opinion is a great start.

Speaker 1: 16:40 All right. Now Iraq is called for us troops to leave that were to happen. Local Marines and Navy personnel would hear, would be affected, I would presume.

Speaker 6: 16:49 Well, they would certainly be affected. They would have to pull out it. And the U S does has more than basis in Iraq at this point. As I said, the forces that were a part of the air ground task force, most of them were actually based in Kuwait. The U S has several pockets of forces all around Iraq. But yeah, they'd be gone.

Speaker 1: 17:08 And Priya, uh, you're in the military. Your experience here, you're seeing increased, uh, security Naval Marine basis. I mentioned that the outset, that incident, uh, from way back in 1988, they tried to kill the family of the U S uh, captain of that ship. What's going on now?

Speaker 3: 17:23 Right? So at all the, um, base Gates now, uh, the base security, the military police are essentially checking everybody's IDs in the car. You have to have a military ID or a dependent ID to get onto a base. That's usually not the case except in heightened security situations. Normally the driver of the car has to have an ID, but you can bring passengers onto the base who don't have one. So it's obviously causing a lot of wait times, which just on a practical is frustrating people, but I think everyone understands that it's for their safety and for national security. So they're willing to wait a little bit extra.

Speaker 6: 17:58 Sure. And understanding the long lines. Miramar has announced in the last day or so that they're kind of reforming some of this to sort of get people through the Gates so it can get a little closer back to business as usual.

Speaker 1: 18:09 And we can't ignore politics and how this may all play out as we go forward in the year and who knows what else may happen as we go.

Speaker 6: 18:16 Yeah, I think it might, you know, you would mostly expect to see this have an effect in the congressional races where the people actually have to weigh in on that. So 53rd, 50th district. Maybe. Maybe that becomes something that candidates need to be able to speak to more effectively.

Speaker 1: 18:29 And we're just about out of time on this segment, but I should know Tuesday night we have the next a debate among a democratic candidates for president and I imagine we're going to hear certainly about all of this and that debate.

Speaker 6: 18:41 I would imagine it would become the primary cause of concern in that, in that debate, which really hasn't been up until now. So this is the first time we're really probably going to see any sort of detailed views on what people think of the war in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, which really hasn't come up at all. Right.

Speaker 1: 18:57 And of course, the house and Nancy speaker, Nancy Pelosi is, had this, a boat here now to restrict the president's, uh, individual, uh, unilateral, right?

Speaker 6: 19:07 There was some movement in the Senate and they're bringing on a couple of Republicans too late, right? They manage to see something, some sort of Congress might actually do something when it regards to war in the middle East.

Speaker 1: 19:17 Right? Well, all things to watch here in a very, very busy time, we're going to move on the specter of homeless people cluster and sleeping bags and tents along downtown streets as long haunted San Diego. But now amid are years long housing crisis, a crisis and camp mitts are expanding in the suburbs and max, uh, set the scene for us at Lamar County park there in spring Valley,

Speaker 8: 19:38 right? So this is a suburban community in East County and what you're seeing is a large encampment of tents. There is always been a homeless population in that area. Um, it's generally low income and pockets. Uh, there's a lot of a kind of, not formally affordable housing, but kind of lower rents in that area. Um, so people really Teeter on the edge, so people become homeless. Um, and over the past six months or so, this park, which had previously had seen some homeless encampments there, has really kind of exploded into at least a 20 to 25 tents. A lot of people staying there, drawing a lot of attention from local residents

Speaker 1: 20:18 and, uh, give us, uh, give us, uh, an idea of who these folks are. You interviewed some of them. I mean, generally what are the kinds of people, demographics we're seeing in that.

Speaker 8: 20:27 So I interviewed a few of them. The vast majority of people I interviewed actually became homeless while they were living in spring Valley or nearby. So obviously there are people who, uh, come to San Diego, can't keep up with the cost of living, become homeless. Some people are raised here, become homeless. It's a real mix. Uh, some people come because they're told, come to San Diego or California in general because it has much better homeless services. So you have this kind of convergence of outside factors and inside factors really, um, leading to this increase in the amount of homeless people. Um, this one narrow sidewalk because they can't actually stay in the park. They, they're subject to arrest and citation there. So instead they've clustered along this sidewalk because most people there have told me that's where they feel most safe either near the restroom unit or the street. There's streetlights. Um, and there's kind of safety in numbers for these types of situations.

Speaker 1: 21:19 And the sheriff goes in and does periodic sweeps and it's kind of a game here. Move 'em out a little bit.

Speaker 8: 21:24 Yeah, pretty much because the County itself cannot offer, has not offered shelter to many of these individuals I spoke with. They said, you know, there were not being offered options. We're not being told go to this shelter to find a place to sleep. Instead it's, well we're going to clean this out. And actually a few of the people there really did like that the County came along and got rid of some of the trash that's been piled up right because people have nowhere to put their garbage. The trash cans, they are overflowing. So they do appreciate that the County does come in and does some cleaning cause this is where they live. But what they don't appreciate of course, is sometimes the County will grab their belongings that are still there and they have to start from scratch again and again. And they are not given any options for housing. And these people, they can't get jobs. They can't find the help that they need and they don't know where to turn to.

Speaker 1: 22:12 No, I wanted to play a bite from a, a volunteer I helping to provide meals to these folks. Uh, do you remember, uh, who this person was who I don't ever name in front of [inaudible].

Speaker 8: 22:21 Oh, this is an advi. Uh, this is a, a volunteer with, uh, the church of spring Valley, spring Valley community church. Uh, she runs a food pantry that only does once a month and they provide food twice a week, uh, at most very limited amount of food. And they're in this kind of precarious position if they don't want to be seen as enabling the homeless and candidate. But they also don't want to see people.

Speaker 1: 22:44 I want to help people out. Yeah. Okay, let's hear what she had to say.

Speaker 9: 22:48 That is absolutely not the ideal situation. However, we have to look at housing these people where they're from in, in situations that they can make maintain themselves. And that's not always as easy as it sounds.

Speaker 1: 23:07 So it's kind of the common story. Some people don't want to go to shelters that they have the opportunity, don't want it. The restrictions there.

Speaker 8: 23:13 Yeah. So it's, you know, there are going to be always a population of people who do not want to leave the streets, you know, who have decided that this is kind of the lifestyle that they want. Either they have a mental health issue or um, you know, addiction issues. There's also the group of people that, um, do not qualify for certain amounts of help. Right. So you have, um, if you are single between 18 and 55, if you're not a senior, if you don't have a family, it gets a little bit harder to get to the top of that shelter list. Right. Because there's not enough beds for the amount of homeless people. And priority often goes to families, older people, people who are really kind of at risk of, um, you know, being out in the elements and something that the state and the County has prioritized given the finite amount of resources.

Speaker 8: 23:59 Uh, so actually I did speak with one woman who was there with her children playing in the park. Uh, she told me that, Oh, you know, she lived nearby. She didn't find the homeless encampment a problem because she herself had experienced homelessness and the recent paths. And so she had this really great insight, which she said, look around. These are people that are just not being reached by the County. Um, and, and I think everyone would admit that there is a lack of resources here. Also a lack of ability to build affordable housing or get people into sheltered spaces. Um, even even if they're short term, even if it's just for the night or week.

Speaker 1: 24:33 Well, and we, we spoke just recently on the round table about some money, a significant chunk of money in the County budget that may be helping out, at least with mental health services. And some of these other aspects, although it's ongoing, very complicated problem with, with affordable housing.

Speaker 8: 24:47 Yeah. So one thing that the County has really focused on are these kind of flex funding pools where the County will be able to help people not become homeless in the first place. Let's say you have a medical bill or your rent gets increased. Um, obviously the most important way for the County to step in and not let people become homeless is to stop them from losing their homes in the first place. So that's a big pool of money. There's $24 million in the County budget now for behavioral health funding. So that's to help people with mental health issues. Obviously that's a huge problem in the, in the homeless community. Um, and then just today, as part of his state of the state, Gavin Newsome announced $750 million for immediate housing. So that's going to be, let's get people into,

Speaker 1: 25:28 all right, we're out of time, but we'd be talking about this quite a bit as we move along through the year. Well, that does wrap up another week of stories. At the KPBS round table. Like to thank my guests, Steve Walsh and Prius, or either of KPBS news and Keats, a voice of San Diego and max Rivlin Adler, also up KPBS news and a reminder, all of the stories we discussed today available on our website. KPBS dot. O R. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the Roundtable.

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.