REGION — Is it future or is it past?
It’s a question made famous by the cult favorite show “Twin Peaks.” And it’s one equally applicable to Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who has already announced that he will run once again to represent the 50th Congressional District for the 2020 presidential campaign cycle.
Filing again as a candidate on New Year’s Eve 2018, 29-year-old Campa-Najjar would presumably face incumbent Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), who won a surprisingly tight race in the 2018 midterms.
The 50th District covers San Marcos, Escondido, Ramona, Alpine, Valley Center and El Cajon.
Campa-Najjar spoke to The Coast News for his first wide-ranging media interview about his campaign, discussing why he has chosen to run again and what he learned from the first go-around.
“(T)he reason I decided to announce early was because I wanted to begin the listening and learning phase of the campaign early,” Campa-Najjar said. “Now we have two years of a runway to take this thing off and I want to spend my time immersing myself in the communities, again listening and learning.”
As long as I’m walking 🚶 I’m running 🏃🏽 for Congress! 🏛— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) January 30, 2019
Excited to be back, thank you @fox5sandiego for having me on to talk about #CA50.
We made history last year, getting closer than any challenger ever in history. Let’s finish what we started! #TogetherWeCan #Ammar2020 pic.twitter.com/nNI7lqy5zo
Pointing to the negativity which imbues modern U.S. politics, Campa-Najjar said he created a motto to stem the tide: “When they go low, we go local.”
“And a good way to kind of circumvent the polarization, the nastiness of politics today, is to really focus on the community that you’re trying to serve,” Campa-Najjar said. “So, not focusing on the personal politics, the party affiliation, but more about people’s personal health, their personal safety, their personal financial dignity. Focusing on those things for the next two years I think will put us in a very good place come March and come November 2020.”
Millennials like Campa-Najjar running for Congress and winning is rare. But at least one, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), has made a major splash in her first weeks as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Asked about Ocasio-Cortez, Campa-Najjar said that he drew inspiration from the freshman legislator.
“I think that she is making a really big splash and she’s being disruptive to the status quo, which I think any time you have that, it’s a good thing,” Campa-Najjar said. “You get more people engaged, even that was what Trump did from the other side. And I think it’s a good thing to have some new energy, new enthusiasm kind of rattle the status quo.”
AS in the first campaign, Campa-Najjar said he will not accept the funding from corporate political action committees, or PACs, because he believes it skews priorities away from the desires of constituents.
“And if your bread is buttered with the voters, then that’s how you win elections, then that’s where your focus is going to be,” he said. “But if you’re able to raise a lot of money and out-message and out-campaign your opponent because you’re receiving a lot of funds from corporate interests, then I think it’s safe to say, more often than not, you’re probably beholden to special interests in Washington and not people’s interests back home.”
Interviewed on the final day of the federal government shutdown, Campa-Najjar slammed President Donald Trump for what he said compromised national security in the name of promoting it.
“When you start impacting our airports to be able to fully operate, the majority of terrorists come through and the majority of our foreign threats come from,” Campa-Najjar said. “This was not in the name of security, this as in the name of self-aggrandizement and I think finally our president was feeling the political cost of that.”
Rep. Hunter declined to comment for this story through his spokesman, Mike Harrison.
Hunter and his wife currently face federal criminal charges for fraud and misuse of campaign finance money. Their trial is scheduled for Sept. 10.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.