Anyone following the story of Representative Duncan Hunter’s indictment, along with his wife, for epic levels of illegal personal use of campaign funds, is bound to be curious about how people in his San Diego–area 50th congressional district are reacting. It’s not a district Republicans were the least bit worried about before the indictment dropped, but now, no one is quite sure how the folks will feel about their congressman turning his campaign treasury into a slush fund for everyday living.
But now SurveyUSA has published a poll it did for the local newspaper and a TV station that was taken entirely after the indictment was released. It showed Hunter still up among likely voters by eight points, 47 percent to 39 percent, over Democratic nominee Ammar Campa-Najjar. It also showed 76 percent of respondents were aware that “Hunter and his wife were the subject of a criminal investigation” (not too surprising since the investigation into his campaign spending has been going on since 2016). And interestingly enough, Hunter’s lead is the same among those who are and who are not “aware” that he’s in deep trouble with the feds.
What’s unclear is how many of the details of the allegations against the Hunters have sunken in at this relatively early date. Campaign finance rules are probably pretty boring to a lot of people. Using campaign money for a “family trip” to Italy, or to buy airfare for a pet rabbit, sounds more than a tad swampy. And then there are the allegations that might spur some anger in a military community like San Diego, as the Los Angeles Times notes:
In one example, the combat veteran-turned-congressman is accused of spending more than $200 at Dick’s Sporting Goods on personal items such as running shoes and marked the expense as a donation to an unspecified wounded warriors’ organization …
In another example widely circulated on social media, the congressman wanted to purchase “Hawaii shorts,” but was out of money. His wife told him to buy them at a golf pro shop so they could claim the expense later as “some (golf) balls for wounded warriors,” prosecutors allege.
Then there is the more general appearance that Hunter was an out-of-control partier in wicked D.C., and a member of what some staff called a “Bros Caucus” whose members were once admonished by then-Speaker John Boehner for “frat house antics.” This material from the New York Times could make it into campaign fliers for his opponent:
In Washington, Mr. Hunter was a fixture on the bar scene, and spent lavishly — over $400 for 30 tequila shots at a bachelor party, and countless fancy dinners. He visited one of his favorite bars sometimes multiple times a day, piling up thousands of dollars in tabs. On occasion, he would get into loud arguments with patrons, once over the choice of music on the jukebox (he hated Celine Dion).
There goes the Celine Dion vote.
Still other voters may not quite have absorbed the extent to which Hunter, a frequent rhetorical champion of fiscal responsibility, is blaming this whole mess on his wife, or on Democrats who have somehow gained control of the U.S. Attorney’s office (headed up by a Trump appointee) in San Diego. And there’s his apparent belief that his $174,000 salary might to be enough for his doughty services as an automatic vote in Congress from Trump’s agenda.
No one knows if the many-splendored embarrassment that is Duncan Hunter is going to gradually erode his lead, or if voters will get tired of the brouhaha and give their congressman a strictly partisan endorsement. If things get hairy, Hunter and Republicans may engage in some cheap demagoguery about Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, whose terrorist history has been thoroughly repudiated by the Democrat, born 16 years after the old man’s death.
The last two months of this campaign are likely going to be wild.