Another Republican jumps into race to challenge Rep. Pete Aguilar

Another Republican has entered the race to challenge Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands), a first-term congressman whose Inland Empire seat is considered vulnerable this fall by both national Democrats and Republicans.

Sean Flynn, an associate professor of economics at Scripps College in Claremont, is a late entry into a race that had until recently looked like a rematch between Aguilar and Paul Chabot, a Republican military veteran who narrowly lost the 2014 contest for the then-open 31st Congressional District. 

The 42-year-old professor's campaign will stress his economic credentials — he literally wrote the book "Economics for Dummies" — and his takes on healthcare and education as he works to find a salient issue in an area dealing with high unemployment

"I believe I can bring ideas that can appeal to the middle in addition to both sides," Flynn told The Times. "I’d like to go to Washington and push forward on the middle ground essentially where real good policy solutions lie."

On social issues, Flynn said he is opposed to abortion except in cases of rape and incest or if the life or health of the mother is in danger. He is in favor of letting state legislatures or voters directly decide on whether same-sex couples can get married.

The first-time candidate for public office will have to spend heavily and hit the streets constantly if he wants voters to recognize his name on the June primary ballot.

Flynn's campaign committee was formed last month, so federal fundraising filings will not be available until April. But he said he has loaned his campaign $50,000 and raised another $50,000. He said he is "confident" he can raise another $100,000 in the next month.

Campaign officials for both Flynn and Chabot said they are hoping to raise enough to have the $100,000 in the bank needed to qualify for the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" program, which promotes candidates among national donors.

Money was a major factor in the 2014 race. Aguilar spent $2.2 million while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC spent another $1.3 million for Aguilar's effort.

Chabot spent under $500,000 and lost to Aguilar 51.7% to 48.3% — a difference of 3,460 votes — despite the Democrat's six-percentage-point advantage among registered voters in the district. It was a strong year for Republicans and one that saw low turnout across the state. 

Chabot's career in the military and law enforcement could position him for another strong showing in the district, which was rocked in December by the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Chabot owns a consulting firm specializing in national security and counter-terrorism.

“We welcome [Flynn] to the conversation and will let the voters decide,” said Chabot spokesman John Thomas. “But his experience is not enough to fight terrorism and keep families safe.”

Aguilar's campaign is taking the 2016 race seriously: It raised $1.5 million in 2015 and has $1 million in cash on hand, according to federal filings. Chabot raised just over $225,000 and finished the year with $61,808 in cash on hand.

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