Duncan Hunter's late resignation will leave district unrepresented nearly all year

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Disgraced Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) decision to delay his retirement into January means his constituents will be unrepresented for most of 2020.

Voters in outgoing Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) district will be left without representation for virtually all of 2020 due to the disgraced lawmaker's decision not to step down from his post earlier in December. Hunter, who pleaded guilty to felony misuse of campaign funds more than a month ago, will vacate his seat on Jan. 13.

Hunter informed California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday that he was resigning from his House seat. Newsom's office said on Wednesday, "Based on the timing of the resignation, a special election will not be called."

Had Hunter resigned by the Dec. 6 filing deadline, it would have guaranteed a special election to select his replacement. He agreed to a plea deal on Dec. 3 and was told by the House Ethics Committee to "refrain from voting" on Dec. 5, but without explanation opted not to resign until "after the holidays."

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But because he waited so long, as the Los Angles Times noted, he made a special election much more difficult. San Diego County's Registrar of Voters has already begun finalizing the ballot for the March primary and overseas military ballots must go out next week for that election. By state law, the timing of any special election would have likely necessitated a March primary which, the paper noted, "could cause confusion" given mail ballots for the existing state primary would have been distributed at around the same time.

Hunter was indicted in August 2018 on multiple federal corruption charges, including using hundreds of thousands in campaign funds for personal purposes. Prosecutors later alleged some of that money went to pay for his extramarital affairs with five women. In a plea deal, Hunter admitted to one count of misusing campaign funds. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

Hunter's office did not respond to questions about why he delayed his resignation for so long and whether he now regrets it.

After his guilty plea was announced last month, one Republican candidate seeking his seat encouraged him to resign quickly to ensure a special election could be held. Carl DiMaio, a former San Diego City Council member, put out a statement on Dec. 6 saying, "By intentionally delaying his resignation past the deadline for the calling of a Special Election, Congressman Duncan Hunter is silencing the voice of the voters of the 50th District for a full year in Congress." Though DeMaio urged Hunter "to reconsider the timing of his resignation to provide a better and more expeditious transition of his office," this request went unheeded.

Now, California's 50th District congressional seat will remain vacant until after the November 2020 elections. The House Clerk will take over supervision of Hunter's staff to ensure handling of all constituent assistance casework, but no one will be able to cast a vote on behalf of the more than 335,000 registered voters in the district until a successor is elected.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.