Rep. Darrell Issa appears at Golden Hall on Election Night 2016. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

“This is vile homophobia. It’s dangerous, craven, and a cancer on the GOP.”

“Unacceptable and unforgivable.”

“Highly inappropriate.”


Those are the rave reviews for the anti-Carl DeMaio ad released by former Rep. Darrell Issa this week in his campaign to reclaim a seat in Congress, this time in the 50th District.

We’ll have to make some room in the local political ad hall of dishonor next to Summer Stephan’s website devoted to railing against “Hungarian billionaire” George Soros, the mailer depicting David Alvarez – then running to become San Diego’s first Latino mayor – holding a wad of cash and seemingly flashing gang signs and the mailer deceptively tying then-City Council candidate Dwayne Crenshaw to a crack house.

Of course, there’s another ad that belongs in that shameful group. And it too happened to come from the 50th District, when the previous occupant of the seat deployed some of the most nakedly racist, Islamaphobic ads in recent memory. He called his opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar a “national security threat” who was seeking to “infiltrate Congress.”

And he won.

Campa-Najjar indirectly addresses those ads in Sam Hodgson’s multi-part documentary on the district for the Union-Tribune, which premiered this week.

“When I meet people, when I go to the Santee concerts, will come to me and say you know, ‘I had no idea that you didn’t have an accent. I thought for sure you’d have an Arabic or Mexican accent.’ And I’m like, I was born in East County. I went to our public schools in this county, and they’re like, ‘Oh I didn’t know that about you. I didn’t know you were a church boy, you went to a Christian church and you were gonna be a pastor. I thought you were a Muslim, not that there’s anything wrong with that.’”

Campa-Najjar is putting a bright spin on these interactions, suggesting that once people meet him in person, they are open to learning about his background and what he stands for. But there’s an indictment lurking here, too: Built into these stories is the fact that these residents’ default position was to buy into the stereotypes that were fed to them. It’s only once they have a face-to-face encounter that they can see him for what he is, when they should have been doing that all along.

Issa didn’t pull his ad out of nowhere, just as Hunter before him didn’t. They’re both giving many of the voters in that district exactly what they want.

In fact, all of the candidates who ran those disgraceful ads got elected. Stephan is the current DA. Alvarez’s opponent in the race for mayor was Kevin Faulconer, the current mayor. (Faulconer’s campaign, though, wasn’t responsible for the ad.) Myrtle Cole beat Crenshaw and went on to become president of the San Diego City Council.

So by all means, condemn Issa for the ad. It was vile, and he deserves it. But save some of that contempt for the residents who continue to decide that this type of hateful pandering isn’t just OK – it’s worthy of a vote.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Jesse Marx put together an engrossing read about how the labor movement developed a playbook that’s helped it gain tremendous power across the region.

One candidate for mayor, Scott Sherman, told us in a podcast interview that he’d use the power of the mayor’s office to push back against labor unions. We rounded up the highlights from our mayoral podcast interviews here.

Meanwhile, the current mayor is in awkward spot. The video former Rep. Darrell Issa released this week of Faulconer endorsing him was actually recorded in 2016. But despite that and the homophobic ads Issa released this week, Faulconer says his endorsement of Issa still stands. We talked about the ads and the race for the 50th more on the podcast this week.

As for the Republicans who aren’t involved in the 50th, they’re pretty much still universally obsessed with undoing AB 5.


If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you’re pretty familiar already with the big issues Voice of San Diego covers. Even so, I bet you’ll learn something new when you check out these rad San Diego 101 videos our reporters and media team put together.


Sweetwater Union High School District shakeups will impact classrooms this year and next.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Either the entire system is broken or is on the verge of breaking, and we need someone to bring about radical, structural change, or — we don’t need that at all! Which is it? Who can say? Certainly not me, and that is why I am telling you now which candidate to vote for.” — Endorsements are perhaps the most decisive an editorial board gets. Unless, of course, they aren’t!

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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