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Former Rep. Darrell Issa has emerged as the early Republican frontrunner in the 50th Congressional District race, facing off against Democrat challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar. Photo by Pat Cubel
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Campa-Najjar, Issa hold early leads in 50th District race

REGION — Two years after losing a bid to unseat Rep. Duncan Hunter, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar will head to a November runoff election to fill the post now left vacant by Hunter’s resignation.

Campa-Najjar topped a nine-candidate field in the traditionally conservative 50th Congressional District to advance to the runoff.

Former Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who is seeking to return to the House where he served from 2001-19, will take on Campa-Najjar in November. With nearly all precincts reporting, Issa appeared to outlast fellow Republican Carl DeMaio in the race for second place, albeit by about three percentage points.

No other candidate in the race mounted a series challenge, including Republican state Sen. Brian Jones, who ran a distant fourth.

Although 10 names appeared on Tuesday’s ballot, only nine were actively running. Democrat Marisa Calderon suspended her campaign in January.

Ammar Campa-Najjar, Democratic candidate for the 50th Congressional District. Photo via Facebook

The 50th District seat was left vacant following Hunter’s guilty plea to misusing $250,000 in campaign funds and subsequent resignation in January.

Campa-Najjar — who ran a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Hunter in 2018 — was the lone active Democrat on the ballot.

DeMaio, a former San Diego City Councilman, was making his second bid for a House seat, six years after losing to Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, in the 52nd District.

Jones, R-Santee, billed himself as “the only candidate with roots in the district, a proven conservative track record and the ability to get things done.” He is a former assemblyman and Santee councilman.

Campa-Najjar, 31, lost to Hunter in 2018 by a margin of 51.7%-48.3%. He was a deputy regional field director for then-President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, worked at the White House in the executive office of the president and led the Office of Public Affairs for the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

The 50th District encompasses most of east San Diego County and a portion of Riverside County.

The top two finishers, regardless of party, will advance to the general election.

A Republican had held the seat since 1981. It was represented by Hunter’s father, Duncan L. Hunter, from 1981-2009.