Republican Rep. Darrell Issa leads Democratic challenger Doug Applegate in early returns in the 49th Congressional District race, according to the Secretary of State’s election count.
With 95,572 ballots counted, Issa has 51.9 percent of the vote and Applegate has 48.1 percent of the vote.
The Issa-Applegate race could be the closest in the 49th congressional district since 2000, when Democrat Susan Davis beat Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray by just over three percentage points.
Republicans have an edge in the district with 37 percent of the registered voters, while Democrats have 31 percent. The district stretches from Dana Point/Mission Viejo in Orange County down to La Jolla and inland a bit to Escondido in San Diego County. The district also encompasses Camp Pendleton.
Republicans hold only 14 of California’s 53 Congressional seats. Four of those seats, including Issa’s include all or part of Orange County.
Applegate is a political rookie and a retired Marine Corps colonel. He told NBC San Diego he didn’t expect to get so close in the June primaries, when he lost by 5.3 points — 6,200 votes.
“I didn’t see any Democratic challenger to a sitting Congressman ever doing that well,” the San Diego-based attorney said.
The San Diego Registrar of Voters said there are 2,499 registered voters in the Camp Pendleton area who are eligible to vote in the 49th Congressional District race.
Since the primaries, Applegate has managed to raise $1.2 million in campaign contributions with $1.1 million of that coming from individual contributors. He’s spent nearly $1 million up until mid October.
Issa supported GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and accepted a spot on Trump’s national security council hours before 11-year-old tapes surfaced on which Trump could be heard saying lewd and offensive comments about women. He condemned Trump’s comments.
The congressman was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where he led multiple investigations into Obamacare and the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans. Not only did Issa anger Democrats with his investigations that didn’t produce significant results, he also angered his own party and lost his chair to another Republican at the beginning of 2015.
The race is in the national spotlight because of the headlines Issa has made with his investigations during his 15-year congressional career.
According to Roll Call, Issa is the richest congressmen whose net worth is $255 million. He has raised a war chest of $1.9 million since last year, with $1 million received via individual contributions and over $700,000 from PACs like Home Depot, Intel and AT&T. He’s spent just under $4 million.
He led the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election when he spent $1.7 million of his money to help fund the campaign to oust then Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, leading to the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Issa’s personal wealth comes from his former ownership of an alarm company that produced Viper car alarms.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at SpencerCustodio@gmail.com