Former Rep. Darrell Issa officially kicked off his campaign Thursday for the 50th Congressional District, the seat currently held by Rep. Duncan Hunter.
“I believe that I have the history, the skills, the seniority and the capability to hit the ground running,” Issa said at a press conference in El Cajon. “Not just for this district, but for California. To help Republicans compete in what has become a very treacherous and difficult Congress and to retake the majority.”
He was joined by El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and retired Navy SEAL Larry Wilske, who all simultaneously announced they were suspending their campaigns to support Issa.
“We’re not dropping out of this race. What we’re doing is we’re joining one team, one fight,” Wilske said. “So Sam’s not dropping out. Bill’s not dropping out. I’m not. What we’re doing is we’re unifying around leadership that has brought us together and that’s the kind of leadership that will bring our country together. We need this to happen.” (To be clear, they’re basically dropping out.)
Temecula Mayor Matt Rahn, who had previously announced he would run for the 50th, was stuck in traffic during the event but also said he would be support Issa.
That leaves Issa with three other opponents vying for Hunter’s seat, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar and Republicans Brian Jones and Carl DeMaio, who, only feet away, held his own press conference protesting Issa’s entrance into the race.
“This is a politician who epitomizes what is wrong with career politicians,” DeMaio said. “He spent 20 years in D.C., he neglected his constituents, and then he lost the support of his district and he failed to put up a fight … I pledge this: I will never quit on you.”
Issa and DeMaio are part of a group of local congressional candidates who don’t actually live in the districts they hope to represent. (Jones did a little trolling of his own Thursday, blasting out pictures of himself in a Jeep and inviting both Issa and DeMaio on a tour of the district they want to serve. He dropped the name of a shooting range and asked whether they’d ever been there.)
At the press conference, Issa told reporters: “You know, I have a voter in the district. I have a house in the district that I have owned for 15 years. And I want you to know that I have my mother’s full support from that house in Bonsall.”