Republican Hunter’s admission on campaign funds gives Palestinian rival edge in California congressional race

Democratic candidate for the 50th congressional district Ammar Campa Najjar makes an appearance outside federal court where incumbent Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife were being arraigned in San Diego, California, US 23 August 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 04 December 2019

Republican Hunter’s admission on campaign funds gives Palestinian rival edge in California congressional race

  • Hunter, who was handed the 50th Congressional District seat in 2008 succeeding his father who served the district for 28 years, faced a tough challenge
  • Campa-Najjar, whose father is Palestinian and mother Mexican American, standing against him

LOS ANGELES: California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, indicted on corruption charges, has announced he would plead guilty to avoid a trial on one count of misusing his campaign funds for personal use, opening the door to the election of Palestinian rival Ammar Campa-Najjar.

Hunter, who was handed the 50th Congressional District seat in 2008 succeeding his father who served the district for 28 years, faced a tough challenge for re-election in November 2018 from Campa-Najjar.

Thirty-year-old Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was Muhammad Yusuf Al-Najjar, or Abu Yusuf, a senior member of the militant Black September Organization who was accused of masterminding the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Germany.

Although Campa-Najjar, whose father is Palestinian and mother Mexican American, was not born until years after, it did not stop Hunter from accusing his Democratic opponent of being part of a terrorist conspiracy to take over the US Congress.

Despite the attacks, Campa-Najjar, who changed his name from Ammar Yasser Najjar, came within 9,000 votes of defeating the incumbent Republican out of more than 259,000 votes cast. Campa-Najjar won the right to challenge Hunter after defeating five other candidates in California’s open primary contest on June 5, 2018.

Hunter had faced more than 60 Federal charges over the misuse of more than $250,000 in monies he raised for election campaigns but instead allegedly used for personal expenses including for his wife and children.

Campa-Najjar told reporters on Monday he was surprised by Hunter’s decision to plead guilty but said it was a “sad day” for the district and the country to have a member of Congress engage in illegal activities.

“Today is a sad day for this district, no constituent hopes to see their congressman plead guilty to corruption. But today is also a day filled with opportunity because it’s the first time in years people, not political scandals, will come first again,” Campa-Najjar wrote on his Twitter account.

Despite having been the target of vicious attacks during the last campaign from Hunter about his Palestinian heritage, Campa-Najjar offered sympathy to Hunter, his wife and his children.

“My thoughts are with Major Hunter and his family, I want to thank him for serving our country,” he Tweeted, referring to Hunter’s military rank as a major.

The 50th district has been considered a battleground state that American President Donald Trump believed would remain Republican, but the latest twists suggest it could turn Democratic next year.

Campa-Najjar is expected to lead those seeking to replace Hunter in the March 3, 2020 California primary election. The top two candidates in the election will face-off in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.

Syrian American and former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who served in Congress from 2001 until retiring in January 2019, announced his intention to challenge Hunter in the 50th district, suggesting he anticipated Hunter would remove himself from the race. It is very rare for members of the same political party to challenge an incumbent office holder.

If he is elected to Congress, Campa-Najjar would become the third Palestinian to hold congressional office, joining Michigan members Justin Amash (Republican) and Rashida Tlaib (Democrat).

During the last election, Hunter attacked Campa-Najjar as a “Muslim” playing into America’s growing Islamophobia. But Campa-Najjar, whose father is Muslim, and mother is Christian, was raised in the Christian faith by his mother, who is separated from her husband.

Campa-Najjar served in various roles within former US President Barack Obama’s administration, including a public relations position in the employment and training administration.


At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

Updated 2 min 57 sec ago

At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

  • The Air India Express plane from Dubai had 191 passengers and crew on board when it overshot the runway
  • There were 10 infants on board

NEW DELHI: At least 16 people were killed Friday when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.
Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down in Kozhikode in heavy rain.
The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 meters (35 feet) down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway.
Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of any fire.
Sakeen K., the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 16 people had died.
“We are still ascertaining the toll,” she told AFP.
Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.
Senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP said that another 15 passengers “have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation.”
“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.
“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”
Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces.”
Four people were still stuck inside the plane. media reports said.
One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.
Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing.”
It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.
The plane was one of dozens in recent weeks to repatriate some of the thousands of Indians left stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest... Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” Modi said.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.
The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.
Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days.
At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.
Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.