Darrell Issa Survives His Toughest Race Yet (UPDATE)

Democrats tried to yoke the California Republican to Donald Trump.

UPDATE: Nov. 28 ― Rep. Darrell Issa is headed back to the House. 

Issa, an eight-term Republican, narrowly won re-election, The Associated Press reported on Monday, after vote-tallying in his neck-and-neck Southern California race dragged on for three weeks. 

Issa survived his toughest challenge yet from a retired Marine colonel tapped by Democrats and a barrage of advertising that tried to link him to Donald Trump.

As of Monday afternoon, Issa held a lead of 2,348 votes, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, which said the gap exceeded the number of votes still uncounted.

“Serving the people of southern California has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I am humbled at the chance to continue fighting for them in Congress,” Issa said in a statement. 


Issa, the wealthiest member of Congress and one of the most dogged antagonists of President Barack Obama’s administration, found himself in unfamiliar territory when Doug Applegate came close to catching him in California’s jungle primary, where the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election. 

That caught the attention of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which began pouring money into the race and making hefty ad buys aimed at convincing voters that Issa and Trump are one in the same. 

As the campaign gained speed, the race for California’s 49th District ― which includes parts of southern Orange County and northern San Deigo County ― went from favoring Issa to a toss up.

“I think that Congress needs more people that actually served a combat tour before they say, ‘Well, we just need to send in the military, because this will be quick and easy,’” Applegate argued on the campaign trail. 

The final month of the race turned ugly. Applegate’s campaign ran an ad saying Issa had joined Trump’s national security advisory board on the same day a 2005 tape surfaced capturing the Republican nominee bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

Issa, former chair of House Oversight Committee, also was battered by Democrats for his obstruction of Obama’s agenda.

His response got personal. His campaign sent mailers citing court documents that showed Applegate’s wife had requested a restraining order after their divorce. The documents revealed Applegate had been accused of “stalking” his ex-wife in 2002, and was charged in 2000 with driving under the influence.

“They’re still selling a deeply flawed candidate with a terrible record of abusing and stalking women,” Issa’s spokesman, Calvin Moore, told The Huffington Post in October. “There’s still a lot that the voters don’t know about Doug Applegate.”

Issa refused to revoke his endorsement of Trump, but revealed anxiety about being linked to the nominee when he sent out mailers praising Obama for signing a bill that Issa had co-sponsored. 

The mailer drew national attention ― and criticism from Obama, who said Issa showed “chutzpah” for using an image of him on the mailer. 

“Here’s a guy who called my administration perhaps the most corrupt in history ― despite the fact that actually we have not had a major scandal in my administration,” Obama said at a fundraiser in California late last month. “And now he’s sending out brochures touting his cooperation with me. Now, that is shameless.”

Issa shot back, blaming Obama for the death of Americans abroad and at home. “I’ve worked with the administration on good legislation where it was possible, and called out wrongdoing wherever I saw it, and will continue to do so,” Issa said at the time.

In the campaign’s final days, Issa used Obama’s words against him, kicking off an “It takes chutzpah” bus tour of 25 campaign stops across San Diego and Orange counties.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misidentified Issa’s district, the 49th Congressional District.