Former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a GOP stalwart who retired from his increasingly Democratic district two years ago, said Tuesday that he had garnered enough votes to advance to a runoff in November for a House seat in a neighboring congressional district.
It’s not clear how many votes remain to be counted in the 50th district, which includes suburbs and farm towns east of San Diego and parts of Riverside County.
But San Diego Republican commentator Carl DeMaio, who was running closely behind Issa, conceded Tuesday, saying it would not be enough to get him to second place.
DeMaio said he would return to his radio show and support Issa’s run to keep the vacated seat of convicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter in Republican hands.
The only Democrat in the race, 31-year-old Ammar Campa-Najjar, won the March 3 primary.
Campa-Najjar, a small business owner and former Obama administration official, nearly pulled a major upset two years ago when he came within 3 percentage points of defeating Hunter, who was under indictment on corruption charges. Hunter was elected to six terms before resigning in January after pleading guilty to misspending campaign funds.
Under California’s election rules, candidates from all parties run in a single primary and the top two vote-getters advance.
Issa and DeMaio were among four Republican contenders. They waged a bitter fight, calling each other liars and challenging the other’s loyalty to President Donald Trump. The president did not endorse either in the primary.
On Tuesday, Issa changed his tone in an attempt to win over voters who backed DeMaio and California Republican State Sen. Brian Jones. He said they “deserve credit for a hard-fought campaign” in trying to keep the seat in GOP hands.
He vowed to keep the momentum going and make that happen.
“I’m honored to receive tremendous support from voters throughout the 50th District who cast their ballots for conservative values like border security, protecting life, and making sure every Californian and every American has the opportunity to succeed,” he said in a statement.
Republicans hold an 11-point advantage among registered voters in the 50th, an outlier in a state where the GOP holds only six of California’s 53 congressional seats.
Issa, a former nine-term congressman, was among the wealthiest members of Congress.
He campaigned as “the conservative in the race who will help President Trump enact his agenda.”