Darrell Issa runs ad targeting opponent's sexuality in race for Congress

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The former congressman is standing by the ad, despite backlash from his own party.

Former Congressman Darrell Issa (CA), who is currently running to replace disgraced ex-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), received widespread criticism this week over a campaign ad that appears to highlight his rival's sexual orientation.

Despite multiple Republicans denouncing the spot, Issa is standing by it.

Issa, who voted against LGBTQ equality most of the time during his 18 years representing neighboring congressional districts, is running against multiple candidates in a jungle primary for California's vacant 50th District seat. One of those is former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio (R), who is openly gay.

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Issa began airing a 30-second TV ad this week attacking DeMaio for being insufficiently anti-immigrant and insufficiently pro-Donald Trump. The spot features images of multiple news articles about DeMaio with his sexual orientation mentioned in the headlines. One shows a 2018 headline from an LGBTQ newspaper dubbing DeMaio "California's gay GOP kingmaker."

The ad has since received harsh criticism from Issa's fellow Republicans.

A spokesperson for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), who has endorsed Issa in the race, told the Los Angeles Times that campaigns "should focus on people's positions on the issues, not people's sexual orientation."

San Diego County Republican Party chair Tony Krvaric told the paper the ad was "highly inappropriate," and encouraged candidates to "stick to the issues."

San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate (R) called the Issa ad "horse shit."

The San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial board dubbed the ad "a permanent stain on Issa."

"Clearly, Issa believes pointing out this fact about his opponent will help him win some voters in the 50th," the board wrote. "It's also clear he’s lost some of his humanity."

California Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D) said that while there are many reasons not to vote for DeMaio, "his sexual orientation isn't one of them."

"Darrell Issa should be ashamed of engaging in such bigotry," he said.

Issa defended the ads at a campaign event on Thursday. The images of the newspapers, he claimed, were merely there to show viewers "where we got our facts, because we think facts matter."

Issa urged reporters to take up the wording of the "real headlines" with the "actual newspapers" that printed them, not with him.

Hunter, whom Issa is seeking to replace, took a federal plea deal last month, admitting to felony misuses of campaign funds. Because the ex-congressman waited until this month to resign his seat, his former constituents will go unrepresented for nearly a full year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.