5 Democrats in House’s 49th District Race Meet in First Face-to-Face Debate Tonight

Democrats debating tonight are (from left): Doug Applegate, Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr, Mike Levin and Christina Prejean. Each seeks the 49th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

Five Democrats, who hope to win the congressional seat of departing Representative Darrell Issa (R-Vista), debate tonight in San Juan Capistrano.

Doug Applegate, Sara Jacobs, Paul Kerr, Mike Levin and Christina Prejean are scheduled to square off starting at 7 p.m. at San Juan Hills High School, 29211 Stallion Ridge, San Juan Capistrano.

The moderator for the 49th Congressional District debate will be Christine Mai-Duc, who covers California politics for the Los Angeles Times and is currently focused on the midterm election. The top two vote-getters from any party in a June primary will face off in the November general election.

The 49th covers the northernmost coast of San Diego County, with the southern boundary falling just above La Jolla. But the district stretches north across the Orange County border to Dana Point and includes within it Ladera Ranch, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. Based on the most recent polling, the district is more than 61 percent white. 

Applegate is a retired U.S. Marines colonel and Operation Iraqi Freedom vet. Jacobs, the granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder and philanthropist Irwin Jacobs, has worked for the United Nations, the State Department and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Kerr is a real estate investor. Levin is an environmental attorney. Prejean, who hopes to become the first female veteran elected to Congress from California, was an Air Force captain who was deployed to Afghanistan. She is now an attorney.

Issa, who was first elected in 2003, is the richest man in Congress and one of the most powerful. Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011-2015, Issa pressed for investigations of the Obama administration over the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and especially the 2012 attack in Benghazi.

But Issa, who is strongly aligned with Donald Trump, barely won reelection in November 2016, defeating Applegate by only 1,621 votes. Credit for Issa’s victory likely rests with 49th district voters in Orange County, which he carried 47,673 to 31,100.

In the same election in the 49th, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by eight percentage points, so the Democratic Party and Democrat-leading political action committees had already been pouring resources into the district in hopes of flipping it long before 64-year-old Issa announced his departure on Jan. 10. He reportedly flirted with running for the heavily Republican 50th Congressional District seat that is currently filled by the scandal scarred Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine).

Speaking of scandal, married father Issa is currently fighting off rumors that he had an affair with Majida Turner, the estranged wife of Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who is seeking to have his former groomsman Issa deposed in his divorce proceedings. Issa has denied he and Mrs. Turner had a tryst.     

When it comes to the district Issa is leaving, he has endorsed as his replacement Diane Harkey, a Republican member of the State Board of Equalization and former California Assembly member and Dana Point mayor and city councilwoman. Other Republicans seeking the seat, according to Ballotpedia, are Assemblyman Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside), San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, San Juan Capistrano Councilman Brian Maryott and San Marcos patent attorney Joshua Schoonover. Libertarian Joshua Hancok is also running, as is Peace and Freedom Party member Jordan Mills.

Tonight’s debate co-hosts Canyon Democrats and Democratic Women of South Orange County say local and national topics will be included in what is billed as the first face-to-face debate for Democrats in the race. Tickets, which are $10 for club members and $15 for non-members, are available via www.dwsoc.org or www.canyondemocrats.org.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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