New Darrell Issa ad calls attention to Carl DeMaio’s sexuality, gets pushback from Republicans

Darrell Issa
Former Rep. Darrell Issa is running for the 50th Congressional District seat vacated by Duncan Hunter. Other candidates include fellow Republicans Carl DeMaio and state Sen. Brian Jones, and Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

A new campaign ad from former Rep. Darrell Issa has drawn criticism from some of his Republican colleagues for highlighting the sexuality of his opponent Carl DeMaio.

The TV ad, which began airing earlier this week, runs 30 seconds and begins by decrying a recent attack ad from DeMaio.

Then Issa’s ad spends much of its run time accusing the former San Diego City Councilman of supporting citizenship for “illegal aliens” while showing an image of three scowling tattooed men, presumed gang members, from El Salvador.

The ad also highlighted negative comments DeMaio has made about President Donald Trump in news articles which happened to feature headlines emphasizing that DeMaio is gay.

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For example one of the headlines in the ad comes from a 2018 article by the Los Angeles Blade, an LGBT news source, and states “Carl DeMaio: California’s gay GOP kingmaker.” Another comes from a 2013 article by The Hill, a DC-based publication, and states “Gay GOP Candidate: Party Must Change.”

Both men are running in the 50th Congressional District race.

Some have called the ad an example of bigotry.

Issa defended the ad while addressing reporters at an event Thursday in San Ysidro, where he was receiving an endorsement from the National Border Patrol Council, the national union for Border Patrol agents.

“You’re talking about some headlines from actual newspapers,” Issa said. “I certainly think you should talk to The Hill and the Blade and ask them why they use those words.”

He added that the headlines are from stories that document DeMaio’s “real failures” and indicated his campaign will continue to reference the articles.

“My opponent, for whatever reason, makes statements that have no bearing in truth and can’t be backed up,” Issa said. “If we say something, we’ll tell you what it is attributed to, where we got our facts, because facts matter.”

These are four of the major candidates seeking to succeed congressman Duncan Hunter in the 2020 primary election.

DeMaio, who has been targeted by anti-gay attacks in past campaigns, did not comment on whether he finds this ad offensive.

“I’d much rather talk about things that matter to voters — like how Darrell Issa authored the amnesty law to benefit 11 million illegal immigrants, or was the only Republican to call for a special prosecutor to investigate President Trump,” DeMaio said in an email.

Issa’s ad drew criticism from prominent local Republicans, some of whom are firmly in Issa’s camp.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who this week endorsed Issa, did not appear to withdraw his endorsement over the ad.

“I can confirm that the mayor has endorsed Darrell Issa and also confirm that Mayor Faulconer is a longstanding ally of the LGBTQ community,” said Faulconer’s spokesman Matt Awbrey in email.

“Campaigns should focus on people’s positions on the issues, not people’s sexual orientation.”

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Republican San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate criticized the ad on Twitter. Chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County Tony Krvaric said the ad crossed the line.

“Highly inappropriate,” Krvaric said. “We encourage all candidates to stick to the issues.”

The ad also drew criticism from many Democrats, including some who have been targets of DeMaio in the past.

“There are a lot of reasons not to vote for Carl but his sexual orientation isn’t one of them,” tweeted Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who is running for mayor. “Darrell Issa should be ashamed of engaging in such bigotry.”

More than a year after a staggering indictment, the congressman announced that he will plead guilty on campaign finance charges.

Issa and DeMaio will square off at a 50th District Congressional Forum on February 7, in Valley Center, where they’ll be joined by fellow candidates Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar and Republican State Sen. Brian Jones.

The 50th District includes swaths of East County, inland North County and a small portion of Riverside County. The district’s congressional seat is empty after former Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, resigned this month after pleading guilty to a federal felony.