As if U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) hasn’t done enough to betray the trust that voters misguidedly placed in him, the disgraced congressman has one more slap in store for his San Diego County constituents as he walks out the door Monday: a year without representation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he will not call a special election to fill the remaining year of Hunter’s term in the 50th Congressional District because too little time remains before the next regular election March 3. (Voters can start mailing in primary ballots Feb. 3, less than a month from now.) Had Hunter resigned before Dec. 6, the last day for candidates to file for the 2020 election, a special election would have been mandatory. Newsom’s decision averts a costly contest that could have been confusing to voters, who would have been asked to pick a temporary representative in the middle of the campaign to select Hunter’s permanent replacement.
If Hunter had stepped down on Dec. 3, when he pleaded guilty in federal court to using about $250,000 in campaign donations for personal and family expenses, a special election would have been unavoidable, but at least his constituents would spend less time unrepresented. And that’s what he really should have done simply for the sake of decorum. Actually, Hunter should have resigned back in 2018 when he was first indicted, along with his wife, on 60 criminal violations of campaign finance law, one of which he ultimately confessed to.
But Hunter has made it clear, time and again, that he has little shame or much regard for the district. Instead, he has been concerned mainly with self-enrichment and living beyond his means. Somehow, other people in the district he has served for 11 years manage to live on much less than the $174,000 salary that Hunter earns as a congressman without having to plunder campaign funds to cover their utility bills, school tuition for the kids, clothes and dates with mistresses.
House rules do not require that members be ejected if they are convicted of crimes relating to their office. Perhaps House leaders will rethink that, given how embarrassingly long Hunter hung on, collecting more salary and accruing more pension benefits before he faces jail. That’s right — even after stepping down in shame for violating the public trust, Hunter may still be enjoying his taxpayer-funded pension.
On second thought, maybe this district won’t mind a year without a congressional representative.