Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R)
California 52nd District
San Diego began as a port, but today most metropolitan-area residents live out of sight of the sea, in hilltop neighborhoods that look out over distant ridges and freeways or in warm, sunny valleys amid the mountains that become dense and taller as one travels east from the Pacific Ocean. There is a discernible difference in attitudes and values between those who have settled inland and those who live nearer the ocean, part of the split between coastal California and interior California that has been at the heart of the state’s political struggles and culture wars. In San Diego, both groups have tended to identify as Republicans. Coastal residents tend to be more affluent, and those who settle inland are more likely to be conventionally religious and to have traditional moral values; they tend to be more supportive of the military and an assertive foreign policy, and they are more dubious about the ability of government to help society’s have-nots. They are more conservative and therefore more reliably Republican. Inland San Diego County produced higher percentages for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 than in 2000, while coastal San Diego County did not.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 52nd Congressional District of California takes in many of the inland San Diego suburbs and most of the mountain and desert interior of San Diego County. It includes the part of San Diego north of Interstate 8 and east of Interstate 15. It has Santee, an East County city of 53,000; and El Cajon, which has the nation’s second-largest (after the Detroit area) community of Chaldeans, Catholic Arabs from Iraq. The district also includes high-income Poway, north of San Diego, and more modest La Mesa, east of San Diego. The mountains and the desert to the east are lightly inhabited. In the mountains is tiny Alpine. In the desert is the town of Borrego Springs amid the giant Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This East County area was swept by horrific fires in October and November 2003, which killed 17 people and destroyed more than 2,400 homes. Subsequent years brought additional wildfires and mass evacuations. Politically, this is a solidly Republican district. Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 posted a smaller win than either of Bush’s here, but he still prevailed easily, 53%-45%, over Democrat Barack Obama.
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Dec. 7, 1976, San Diego .
Education: San Diego St. U., B.S. 2000..
Family: Married (Margaret); 3 children.
Military career: Marine Corps, 2002-05 (Iraq); Marine Reserves, 05-present (Afghanistan).
Professional Career: Business analyst, Cayenta Inc., 2000-02; Residential developer, 2005-07.
The new congressman from the 52nd District is Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican who was elected to the seat that his father held for 28 years. The senior Duncan Hunter, the longtime chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, gave up the seat to compete for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
|Duncan D. Hunter (R)||160,724||(56%)||($1,280,755)|
|Mike Lumpkin (D)||111,051||(39%)||($482,063)|
|Michael Benoit (Lib)||13,316||(5%)|
|Duncan D. Hunter (R)||47,930||(72%)|
|Brian Jones (R)||10,862||(16%)|
|Bob Watkins (R)||5,539||(8%)|
Hunter grew up in El Cajon and got a degree in business administration from San Diego State University. He worked in the computer industry for several years during the technology boom of the late 1990s. He says that the September 11 terrorist attacks prompted him to rethink his career plans. The next day, Hunter quit his job and enlisted in the Marine Corps. After completing officer training, Hunter was commissioned as a lieutenant. He was deployed to Iraq in 2003, served in Baghdad after the fall of the city, and in 2004 fought in the battle of Falluja. In 2006, he was promoted to captain and placed on reserve status. But shortly after announcing his candidacy in March 2007 for his father’s House seat, Hunter was again called to active duty, this time in Afghanistan. Hunter was prohibited from any campaign activities, including fundraising and planning, and held only one event before leaving. In his absence, the management of his nascent campaign fell to his wife, Margaret Hunter. She took over all appearances and campaign duties in addition to caring for their three young children. When Hunter called home from Afghanistan, it was still illegal for him even to inquire how the campaign was going, and he remained largely in the dark about its status until his duty ended in December 2007. He returned home to resume campaigning full-time.
In the June primary, Hunter faced two competitors, Santee Councilman Brian Jones and San Diego Board of Education President Bob Watkins. Although both were well known locally and campaigned actively, Hunter and his family surrogates effectively ran on the basis of his military credentials. Hunter also benefited from his father’s political and congressional connections, raising nearly three times as much money as his Republican challengers, including contributions from the political action committees of members of Congress and a $2,300 contribution from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Hunter cruised to victory in the June primary with 72% percent of the vote. His closest challenger, Jones, got 16%. In the general election, Hunter faced another military veteran, retired Navy SEAL Commander Mike Lumpkin, a former Republican turned Democrat. He agreed with Hunter on many issues, including gun rights and the need for a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. But national Democrats paid little attention to the contest, and Hunter prevailed in the predominantly Republican district, 56%-39%.
Hunter shares not only his father’s name, but also many of his political beliefs. Both were 31 years old when they were elected to Congress. He followed in his father’s footsteps with a seat on the Armed Services Committee, and cites national security as his top priority. “I can tell you what the guys on the ground, the men and women out there fighting, actually need,” Hunter said. “We have a whole lot of brass out there at the Pentagon and in the DOD [Department of Defense] who haven’t left their offices in six or seven years.” Hunter’s other interests include tougher immigration laws and finding ways to halt the outflow of jobs overseas.
In one of his first legislative efforts, Hunter in 2009 introduced a bill to bar the transfer of terrorism suspects from the federal prison camp in Guantanamo to San Diego County. He said that the Obama administration’s proposal would make the region a bigger target for terrorists crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. “The decision to close the facility was made without any consideration for the security risks and legal consequences that will undoubtedly arise,” Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune, accusing Obama of making a “purely political” decision. “If it weren’t, President Obama would have more closely examined the issue before rushing to a decision on his first day in office.”