When Duncan Hunter Jr, the Republican Congressman in CD50, was indicted on August 21 on multiple charges of wire fraud and falsifying records, the odds of a Democratic pick-up in a solidly red district suddenly multiplied.
But that was before Hunter, an experienced politician—his same-name father held the seat for years before essentially willing it to his son—began to shine a light on the unsavory history of his opponent’s ancestors.
As reported in CaliforniaGlobe and elsewhere, Ammar Campa-Najjar, the 29-year-old Democrat who won the right to face Hunter by coming in second in the district’s jungle primary, is the grandson of Palestinian terrorist Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar. As head of the intelligence wing of Fatah, al-Najjar helped mastermind the massacre at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, in which 11 Israeli wrestlers and coaches were murdered. Al-Najjar was assassinated in Beirut in 1973 by Israeli commandos.
The young candidate, born sixteen years after his grandfather’s assassination, has strongly disavowed his grandfather’s notorious past. But that hasn’t stopped Hunter from connecting the family dots.
Hunter’s campaign put out a brutal ad accusing Campa-Najjar of “working to infiltrate Congress” and notes that the bad blood didn’t end with the grandfather. The ad quotes Campa-Najjar’s father Yasser Najjar as saying the murdered Israeli athletes “deserved to die.”
The national media has noticed.
After NPR profiled the race, Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter at CNN’s KFile, offered the opinion, “It’s not getting nearly enough coverage, but Rep.Duncan Hunter (the indicted California congressman) is running one of the most openly anti-Muslim campaigns we’ve ever seen, with shameful smears of his opponent.” Obama speechwriter and Pod Save America host Jon Favreau called Hunter’s tactics “absolutely disgusting.”
Now, the challenger himself is firing back with his own twist on family ties. In two tweets sent at 11 pm last night, Campa-Najjar tries to turn the paternal tables on Hunter.
In a message that seems to suggest respect for the senior Hunter, Campa-Najjar writes, “Duncan Hunter Sr. was once congressman, but voters know it’s me and Duncan Jr. on the ballot this time — neither of our fathers are running for congress. Voters will judge us by our own merits, character, and record this election. May the better man win.” Then in a second tweet, he lowers the boom: ” Hunter’s ongoing attacks on me, his wife, & the DOJ aren’t just political; they’re pathological. While Hunter lacks personal accountability, voters know his family isn’t responsible for his actions & I’m not responsible for my family’s actions.”
Duncan Hunter Sr. was once congressman, but voters know it’s me and Duncan Jr. on the ballot this time — neither of our fathers are running for congress. Voters will judge us by our own merits, character, and record this election. May the better man win.
— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) October 15, 2018
That a Congressman who faces trial on fraud charges should even stand a chance speaks to the demographics of a district that includes Camp Pendleton and an incumbent whose “I approve this message” shows the former Marine in uniform in Iraq.
Meanwhile, don’t expect the campaign to get any gentler from here.
Yesterday, Hunter’s campaign distributed a flyer with “Security Alert” printed in red and signed by three retired Marine Generals. It concludes, “No one interested in America’s national security should take the chance of voting for Ammar Campa-Najjar aka Ammar Yasser Najjar.”