The race for the 49th Congressional District - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

The race for the 49th Congressional District

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Congressman Darrell Issa Congressman Darrell Issa

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — With the wind at his back in a solid Republican district, Congressman Darrell Issa sailed to victory in his past seven elections.

This time, he faces the toughest race of his 16-year political career from a challenger who has never held an elected position.

Issa originally supported Marco Rubio, but two weeks before the California primary, he endorsed Donald Trump, hoping that a Trump surge in California would benefit him in the primary.

The 49th congressional district is in northern San Diego County and southern Orange County.

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It's a Republican district with educated voters, many of whom have trouble connecting to the Trump candidacy. Political consultant Tom Shepard said Issa took a calculated risk by supporting Trump in the primary.

"The Trump affect is having an impact on him and his campaign, and it was clear in the primary that the Trump factor had an influence on the outcome, and I think its very possible it will in November as well," Shepard said.

Retired Marine Colonel Douglas Applegate came within six points of defeating Issa in the primary, largely because of the Trump factor.

Trump has not only alienated voters, he's lost support among Republican candidates, many of whom came out against, but not Issa.

"He appears to be doubling down. He's taken a leadership position in the campaign and I see no evidence that he's not going to be supportive of his candidacy," Shepard said.

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Politically, that's another calculated risk.

"If you distance yourself from Trump as a congressional candidate, you risk alienating those voters who are still strongly supportive of him," Shepard added.

This is why we are seeing negative ads from both Issa and Applegate, each trying to define the other for the voters.

Issa has attacked Applegate on his marriage and divorce. Applegate charges Issa of using his officer for persona, financial gain.

But tying Issa to Trump is key for Applegate.

"You would not be seeing the advertising you're seeing in that district if the connection to Trump wasn't a real major negative among voters," Shepard said. "Applegate realizes that connecting Issa to Trump in this particular district is a potential path to victory for him."

Applegate has benefited from his near upset of Issa in the primary. The Democratic Congressional Committee Campaign added the 49th district to its list of targeted races to flip a House seat from red to blue.

It's likely this race will be determined by the outcome of the presidential race. Shepard said if Hillary Clinton wins the 49th by 10 points, which is possible, Issa will lose his seat.

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