SAN MARCOS — On Oct. 27, Ammar Campa-Najjar appeared at a meet and greet event in San Marcos as part of his latest election bid for the 50th Congressional district of California. Najjar ran last year against Duncan Hunter, narrowly losing with 48% of the vote.
Campa-Najjar said he was very grateful for the support from North County in an interview with The Coast News. “East County is where we need to work more,” he said, “but I really appreciate the support from North County. I want them to know that I’m going to be there for them when it comes to every issue,” listing farming, small business, crime and gangs as examples.
The event was held at a San Marcos residence with a sprawling backyard and view. A few dozen chairs were set up on the lawn, and various finger foods and drinks were laid out for attendees who had come to hear Campa-Najjar speak, among them a soldier, an accountant and a documentarian from the Union-Tribune.
“I hope to find out if there’s anything new that he’s running on, if there’s any new information from him,” said Kathryn Gray.
“I hope to hear from him his … how he feels about the current impeachment inquiries, how he feels about guns and how he feels about Duncan Hunter and what he’s going through right now,” said Brandon Oleksy, a photographer and substitute teacher who works in Vista and San Marcos.
“This community brought me into this world,” Campa-Najjar said to the crowd, noting that he was born and raised in San Diego. He also joked that he has been fighting for the same two-year seat for the past three.
“I think the reason that we lost, partially,” he said, “was that we were taking on a 40-year dynasty. We had only two years of runway to take this thing off, we have more time this time. And then we looked at the data, and we saw where we lost, and we saw where we won. Everywhere we went, we won, and so just the learning experience is going to more places, having more of these community engagements, and speaking the truth and letting the chips fall where they lie.”
When asked about Hunter, Campa-Najjar said that all the buzz currently swarming around him due to his upcoming federal corruption trial is a distraction from the larger issues. When asked if Campa-Najjar would visit Hunter in prison once he was in Washington, Campa-Najjar said that in that scenario, he would listen to what Hunter would have to say, as Hunter would still be one of his constituents.
After drawing attention to the current state of politics in Washington, saying that he felt that it is wrong for politicians to consistently fail at governing and get paid for it anyway, Campa-Najjar laid out the beliefs that embody him as a candidate.
On education, he said that public funds ought to be going to public schools, there should be a public service system of student loan forgiveness, teachers shouldn’t have to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, and special-needs children should not be neglected.
When the subject turned to immigration, Campa-Najjar said that other potential solutions to reforming immigration should be looked at other than just erecting a wall, and that the United States ought to be hospitable to immigrants, saying that it is profitable to do so.
He referred to climate change as “the mother of all problems,” noting that the Pentagon itself has said something to the same effect, on account of the risk of U.S. coastal bases being flooded.
Regarding guns, Campa-Najjar noted that he is a gun-owner, and wants silencers, bump stocks and weapons of war out of the hands of ordinary citizens. “There’s no silver bullet, no pun intended, to gun reform,” Campa-Najjar said. “Taking people’s guns away won’t change it, because people can still purchase guns illegally. And in fact, most criminals do it that way.”
When this reporter asked what he would do to combat hate crime, noting the synagogue shooting in Poway as a particular example, Campa-Najjar pointed out that a combination of anti-hate education, mental health services and stronger gun laws would be an effective way of combating hate crime. He attributed the spike of hate crime to young people being bullied 24/7 because of the internet and then victims turning to darker parts of the internet for solace and subsequently being exposed to extremist viewpoints.
Campa-Najjar framed his hope for political progress both as healing the soul of America, as well as a comeback story. “I think for me,” Campa-Najjar said, “people really love the notion of country over party. They love the idea that I was running for Congress to represent everybody. Not to just give control to one party over the other but representing everybody.” He noted during his talk that he hasn’t taken any money from corporations.
“In Congress I’ll be fighting on fundamental issues, to bring back resources to help make sure that all of North Country and my district is flourishing to its full potential,” he said. Once his talk was over, he took a group photo with attendees, with foregoing “Cheese!” for “Country over party!”
Editors Note: An original version of this story, after first reference, incorrectly referred to Ammar Campa-Najjar’s last name as Najjar. The Coast News regrets the error.
Alex Wehrung covers Rancho Santa Fe and theatre-related news in North County. He previously reported for The Daily Nexus in Santa Barbara, CA and the Escondido Times-Advocate in Escondido, CA.