Facing a federal indictment for misuse of campaign funds, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) is still the front-runner in the race for the 50th Congressional District — although with a shrinking advantage over Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar.
According to a Survey USA poll released Monday, Hunter has an eight-point lead over his opponent, 47% to 39%, with 13% undecided.
In the June primary, the top two finishers were Hunter, with 47%, and Campa-Najjar at 18%.
However, as the field of candidates has narrowed, Campa-Najjar appears to have consolidated support among Democrats and even potentially picked up backing among some swing voters.
The district, which Hunter has represented since it was redistricted about five years ago, covers much of East San Diego County, including Poway, Ramona, Alpine and Borrego Springs.
Support for Hunter was strongest among Republicans: 77% among polled voters, compared to 7% for Campa-Najjar.
Independents, however, favored Campa-Najjar by 44% to Hunter’s 41%. About 14% of those with no party preference are still undecided. Democrats support Campa-Najjar 85% to Hunter’s 8%.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in federal court Aug. 21 for using more than $250,000 in campaign cash for personal purchases.
The couple pleaded not guilty on Thursday. Hunter and his legal team have called the charges a politically motivated witch hunt. According to the poll, 64% of Republicans and 41% of Independents say the charges are motivated by politics.
According to the poll, about 42% of voters polled said they were less likely to vote for Hunter as a result of the charges.
About 41% said the charges against Hunter will not affect their vote, and 11% said they are more likely to vote for him as a result of the indictment.
Hunter — who has reportedly been stripped of his committee assignments — faces dozens of counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsification of records, and aiding and abetting in the prohibited use of campaign contributions.
Questions about the use of campaign funds have swirled around Hunter since 2016 when the Federal Election Commission and the San Diego Union-Tribune began looking into expenditures such as private school tuition, oral surgery, video games and airfare.