Republican candidate Duncan Hunter is running for reelection in California’s 50th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of San Diego and Riverside counties. FiveThirtyEight forecasts the incumbent’s chance of reelection at 77.8 percent in the typically red district.
However, Hunter was indicted in August on counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, falsification of records, prohibited use of campaign contributions, bank fraud, and aiding and abetting. Hunter was accused of diverting over $250,000 of campaign funds toward personal expenditures, which he wrote off under the guise of charity-related spending.
Despite the political mayhem that arose following his indictment and a cessation of his committee assignments in the House, polls consistently bode well for Hunter.
Aside from reducing spending and debt, Hunter’s platform focuses on reforming foreign policy, which he says has “has emboldened our enemies and contributed to the spread of terrorism.” Hunter supports the local defense industry through organizations such as General Atomics, which has been one of his largest campaign contributors over the years.
However, Hunter’s anti-terrorist agenda has also taken the form of fear-mongering and anti-Muslim rhetoric. A pre-election report by Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization, identified 80 candidates running in the 2018 midterm elections who have “openly pedaled fear of Muslims in 2017 and 2018 elections.” Hunter was one of four identified in the state of California.
Hunter called his opponent, Palestinian Mexican American Ammar Campa-Najjar, a “security risk” who is “trying to infiltrate Congress,” in an ad posted in September. He accused the Christian candidate of receiving support from CAIR and Muslim Brotherhood. Politifact has found this to be inaccurate, given the lack of evidence that either organization has contributed to Campa-Najjar’s campaign.
The ad also accused Campa-Najjar of hiding family ties to terrorism. It cites the involvement of Campa-Najjar’s grandfather in the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972, which Campa-Najjar has publicly denounced.
Medill sophomore Anamaria Silic said standards for politicians have dropped in light of Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric. “People feel more open to saying things that can be considered Islamophobic and racist,” Silic said.
She highlighted Trump’s claim that Middle Easterners are traveling with the migrant caravan heading north from Honduras as an example of fear-mongering to rally popular support. And the problem isn’t limited to America, said Silic, who is from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“These cases are very, very common in Europe,” Silic said. “The parties that are Islamophobic – they’re getting more and more support.”
Not only is Hunter not alone in disseminating anti-Muslim sentiments in his campaign; he also isn’t the only candidate facing an indictment.
Chris Collins, the incumbent in New York’s 27th District, was indicted with 13 counts of fraud and false statements surrounding an insider trading scandal. Collins deemed these charges “meritless” and proceeded with his campaign anyway. Project FiveThirtyEight placed his chance of reelection at 75.7 percent, although he is currently trailing democratic candidate Nate McMurray by over 11,000 votes, with 50 percent of the vote counted.
Trump disparaged Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department over Twitter in early September for the timeliness and well-publicized nature of the charges against both Hunter and Collins.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on Nov. 7 to clarify that Anamaria Silic is from Bosnia-Herzegovina.