SAN MARCOS — Candidates for California’s 50th congressional district met at Palomar college to address the interests of North County residents on Feb. 21.
The 50th Congressional District serves portions of northern and eastern counties of San Diego and was vacated by Republican Duncan Hunter, who held the seat for 11 years, on Jan. 13 following a guilty plea to corruption charges.
While the candidate forum hosted by Palomar College’s MEChA, a student organization, was an open invite to all those running for the congressional seat, major political contenders such as Republican candidates Darrell Issa and Carl DeMaio, and Ammar Campa-Najjar, the lone Democrat in the race, did not attend.
The lesser-known candidates, Republican Nathan Wilkins, the Peace and Freedom Party candidate José Cortés, and independents Helen Horvath and Lucinda Jahn, were present to bring their party platforms to district residents.
The forum was moderated by the League of Women Voters and held an open question forum for one-minute statements. The topics of interest to North County residents ranged from the 2020 census and equal pay for women to the cost of renting and home ownership.
However, the night’s first question concerned the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence in San Diego and how to prevent it in their constituents’ cities. Horvath said the response time was not adequate.
“It’s not an easy concept and it’s not going to be solved in a minute,” Jahn said. “Sorry, I can’t give you that answer either.”
Cortés said that residents need to mobilize within the city to organize and demand accountability. Wilkins countered and said that, “ICE isn’t going away,” and reinforced the need to protect the border to prevent drug and human trafficking.
A question that illuminated the platforms of the candidates asked whether they would side with their conscience, party or constituents. Jahn stated that she was a principled person who sides with her conscience than with her constituents, while Wilkins directed voters to his website to see his values.
Horvath said that she began her campaign by siding with constituents as an independent and that partisan politics was unhealthy for the country.
“It’s very painful for me as a psychologist to watch other people come to me and talk about issues that they face,” Horvath said. “It’s unfair to our country that we have to go through this.”
Cortés stated that he would side with his conscience and would go beyond those who voted and include those who are incarcerated and those who are undocumented who do not have the ability to vote.
“I knew it was wrong that an unarmed man was shot and killed in the parking lot in front of my dentist’s office, and it’s the same conscience that ties me to the interests of the working class,” said Cortés.
While Campa-Najjar was not present for the forum, he did provide a statement for those in attendance. He said that he was looking to enact change that will benefit those in North County and for those in his hometown in East County.
“We’ve been ignored far too long by insiders in Washington and we’re going to change that together,” Campa-Najjar said. “That’s why it pains me not to be with you all tonight.”
San Marcos City Councilwoman María Nuñez, who was in attendance for the event, said that she was endorsing Campa-Najjar for the congressional seat but was happy to see that MEChA was hosting a forum for the candidates present to address issues district residents were interested in. For the other major candidates not present, however, she said that their absence was missed.
“I’m not surprised,” Nuñez said. “I wish they would’ve made an effort to make an appearance, I think that would’ve really added to the conversation.”