Hunting Red Herrings

BY MANASA GOGINENI

Duncan Hunter (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images).

Luxurious vacations to Italy, Hawaii, and Vegas, private school tuition, thousands of dollars in groceries, food and beer at concerts, gas, tequila shots, personal ski trips, golf outings, and video games all share a common denominator: they are among the personal indulgences San Diego congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife unlawfully purchased using over $250,000 in campaign funds over the course of seven years.

Duncan Hunter, staunch Republican and devoted Trump supporter, represents the 50th Congressional District. Despite being federally indicted just earlier this year on 60 counts of alleged misuse of campaign funds and being publicly disgraced, he won a fourth term in last week’s midterm elections. He ran against 29-year-old Ammar Campa-Najjar, a first-time Democratic candidate. Controversy surrounded Hunter’s re-election due to his running an openly anti-Muslim campaign.

Hunter spun conspiracy theories about Campa-Najjar’s intentions and legitimacy. Campa-Najjar has a Mexican-American mother and a Palestinian father, and has held verified leadership roles in a Christian community church throughout his life. He worked as a White House aide under former President Barack Obama after gaining FBI security clearance.

Although Campa-Najjar has no immediate connection to Islam, Hunter has publicly labeled him a “national security threat” and claimed he was “working to infiltrate Congress”. It is plausible that Hunter’s concern stems from a 1970s terrorism plot in Munich involving Campa-Najjar’s grandfather. This appears to be a tenuous connection as Campa-Najjar had never met his grandfather, who died 16 years before he was born. He is also estranged from his Palestinian father.

It’s arguable that Hunter is using these rhetorical tactics to distract voters from his own discrepancies. Under fire for alleged corruption, it seems natural that he would want to blow the flames elsewhere.

Hunter has claimed that Campa-Najjar was endorsed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. However, CAIR does not endorse political candidates. Hunter’s campaign has also paid for a letter signed by three ex-Marines stating that if elected to Congress, Campa-Najjar planned to pass on confidential military information to terrorist groups.

Hunter ran an anti-Muslim campaign against someone who isn’t even Muslim. His character attacks are overall indicative of a larger move to anti-Islamic rhetoric in the United States. As the political right’s foothold weakens in solid red districts like California’s 50th, it is compelled to use race and hate to maintain its power — and this strategy works.

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