Rep. Duncan Duane Hunter (R-50th Congressional District) slings racist falsehoods in effort to save his seat. The embattled California lawmaker is accusing his Arab Christian opponent of sympathizing with terrorists.
Hunter, also known as the vaping congressman, is battling for re-election in a traditionally red district east of San Diego after being indicted on charges of using campaign funds for personal expenses.
In an effort to survive in November amid what has been a tough political environment for Republicans in California, Hunter has turned to slinging racist and false attacks against his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar.
A political newcomer, the 29-year-old Campa-Najjar, who is of Palestinian and Latino descent, would be among the youngest members of Congress if elected. He worked in Barack Obama’s administration as a Labor Department public affairs officer, where he carried a federal security clearance.
But Hunter and his campaign are choosing to focus on Campa-Najjar’s controversial family history, accusing him of changing his name to hide his family’s connection to terrorism and seeking to portray him as some sort of Muslim radical who would present a threat to national security.
“He changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar to Ammar Campa-Najjar,” Hunter said at a recent campaign event, according to NPR, “so he sounds Hispanic. … That is how hard, by the way, that the radical Muslims are trying to infiltrate the U.S. government.”
Campa-Najjar converted to Christianity from Islam years ago. He said he changed his name in honor of his Hispanic mother’s family, which helped raise him. If he really wanted to make his name sound Hispanic, as Hunter claims, Campa-Najjar didn’t do a very good job by retaining most of his original name.
A scary-sounding ad from Hunter’s campaign also accused Campa-Najjar of trying to “infiltrate” Congress, noting that his grandfather, Yasser al-Najjar, participated in the deadly attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Campa-Najjar says he never knew his grandfather, who was killed by Israeli agents 16 years before the candidate was born. Campa-Najjar maintains that he shouldn’t be judged by his family member’s actions, which he has condemned.
He certainly wouldn’t be the first candidate seeking office with some family skeletons in his closet. This year, for example, Republican Walker Stapleton is running for governor in Colorado; his great-grandfather, who died 24 years before Stapleton was born, was once a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Over the weekend, Hunter’s campaign doubled down by releasing a letter that claimed his opponent, if elected, would leak classified information on U.S. military operations to foreign actors. “Would he compromise U.S. operations to protect his relatives, the Najjars?” asked the letter, which was paid for by Hunter’s campaign and signed by three retired Marine Corps generals.
Three retired @USMC generals signed their names to a letter saying congressional candidate @ACampaNajjar is a threat to U.S. security. Letter was paid for by campaign of indicted U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter. + pic.twitter.com/0mMyhyxS4p
— Kelly Davis (@kellylynndavis) October 15, 2018
Campa-Najjar’s campaign called on Republican leaders in Congress to denounce what it called the “pathological” and “hate-filled” attack on Monday.