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Happy Sunday! I may be a bit short today as I speak to a group of young professionals about this year's elections. Plus, you're probably looking forward to a short Nooner after the deluge the last few days.
After the jump, a look at why I moved CA50 from "Likely Republican" to "Toss-up," even though the candidate field hasn't changed. Congressman Duncan Hunter is a serious risk, and his fellow House Republicans and their staff are openly talking about it (off the record).
On CA50, certainly my two-step move from "Likely Republican" to "Toss-up" will raise eyebrows. I've been watching and thinking about it for awhile, and I take these things very seriously. This is a fundamentally safe Republican district on paper. Trump beat Clinton here by 16 points, Kashkari over Brown in 2014 by 28 points, and Hunter won re-election by 27 points in 2016.
However, candidates matter. I make the change based on year-end financial reports and a story this week by Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan for Politico.
Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed [Congressman Duncan] Hunter’s parents, as well as a female lobbyist with whom many people close to the congressman believe he had a romantic relationship, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The Justice Department is trying to determine whether hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hunter’s campaign account were spent improperly on his family and friends. Hunter already sold his home to pay back what even he now acknowledges were improper charges, moving his wife and kids in with his parents while he mostly lives in his Capitol Hill office.
Three people with knowledge of the probe told POLITICO that Hunter's wife, Margaret, who acted as his campaign manager, is at the center of the FBI inquiry. Many of the alleged campaign charges in question — including tuition payments for their children’s schooling and dozens of restaurant meals where no donor appeared to be present — were made by Margaret Hunter, those people said.
But Hunter is also under intense scrutiny by the FBI and federal prosecutors. Federal agents have questioned his former staffers about whether thousands of dollars spent at Washington restaurants were legitimate campaign expenditures. They’ve also inquired about his relationships with several women in Washington, including one who worked in his office.
“He’s enjoyed his time in Washington — probably a little too much,” said one House Republican lawmaker who has known Hunter for years but wants him to retire in order to protect the seat. “His wife supposedly had the campaign credit card, but that’s not an excuse. You can’t just blame your wife.”
In an interview Monday, Hunter denied ever knowingly using campaign funds for personal expense.
“Nah, I know the rules,” he said. “And if I did, it was an accident and I paid it back.”
In Hunter's year-end financial report, we find that the five-term congressman raised $427,513 in 2017--38th among congressional incumbents. Meanwhile, he spent $717,790, the eighth highest amount by an incumbent lawmaker.
He ended the year with $290,904, 39th amount the 53 incumbent members of the California congressional delegation. Only one House GOP incumbent (Doug LaMalfa) had less on hand.
Of the expenditures, $178,168 were spent on legal services. That's not for campaign filings (they are reported spent with another firm), but actual shoe leather and paper-pushing. In other words, 24.8% of his campaign donors' dough were to save his ass, or 41.7% of the money he took in.
Meanwhile, as the investigations continued, the spending on "food/beverages" did as well.
These all follow the well publicized repayments of $12,000 in 2016 that included payments to his children's charter school and a oral/facial surgeon, surf and skate shop, and a garage door company reports the SDUT.
Let me be clear. I don't write this as a takedown for partisan purposes. I don't know Duncan Jr. or his father and know of good work both of them have done for the district.
This, though, is what's being talked about on The Hill and among the interest groups funding independent committees that are expected to supplement his abysmal cash position and are sweating losing an otherwise safe seat.
The problems are that Hunter doesn't appear to be budging and that there are only 26 days to file for the June 5 primary, or 31 days if Hunter bows out. Further, the only Republican candidate who is rumored as a possibility is Darrell Issa, who is retiring from the neighboring CA49 and would be labeled for living outside the district (although that's the case with many candidates this cycle of both major parties). However, he does at least have name ID and plenty of money.
The leading Democrat, Ammar Campa-Najjar, has $290k on hand after $520k in 2017. Those are contributions, not a personal loan that has bouyed the numbers of many Democratic challengers across the state. And most are small dollar amounts through ActBlue contributions, rather than contributors who have hit the $2,700 per election cap or the $5,000 per year cap on PACs. That means he can keep going back to the well, and some of these are likely on automatic monthly payments.
Right now, I have to look at it objectively with the facts in front of me. If Issa gets in and Hunter heads to the sunset, it probably moves to Leans Republican, but I don't see it moving back to Likely Republican this cycle.
#METOO: Joe Garafoli reports in the Chron the intersection of the gubernatorial campaign and the movement to address sexual harassment and other misconduct.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, was named in a report outlining sexual misconduct complaints against legislators.
That’s one reason three of the men in the nearly all-male field of candidates running for governor — Democratic front-runners Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen — are spending a lot of time responding to concerns about their inappropriate sexual behavior, which in some cases happened a decade ago.
SCOCAL: For the LA TIMES, John Myers writes that one of the most important nominations that Governor Jerry Brown has had eleven months to make still hasn't been done, and the clock is ticking. Following Pete Wilson nominee Kathryn Werdeger retired in August the Supreme Court of California has had a only six members as it faces several big cases, writes Myers.
TAXES AND PENSIONS: Dan Walters writes for CALmatters says that cities need to face up to the intersection of the increasing cost of pensions and local tax proposals. I'm working on a longer piece of this complicated issue, so I won't write more now.
Enjoy your Sunday! Go TEAM USA!
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Senator Joel Anderson and Lucy Dunn!
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