Third Democrat challenges Issa, second Republican running against Rohrabacher

October 28, 2017

With two strong Democrats already challenging the reelection bid of nine-term Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, it’s natural to wonder why real estate investor Paul Kerr decided to jump in as well.

First in the race was Doug Applegate. The attorney and retired Marine colonel stunned political analysts and help rewrite the campaign calculus for Republican-held congressional seats in Southern California when he came within 0.6 percentage points of upsetting Issa. The San Clemente resident didn’t miss a beat in announcing he’d try again in 2018.

Applegate’s near-success — along with Hillary Clinton’s win in Orange County’s four GOP-held congressional districts — attracted national attention and a parade of 2018 Democratic challengers to the four races.

Quickly joining Applegate in Issa’s 49th Congressional District was San Juan Capistrano’s Mike Levin, an attorney and veteran Democratic activist with a vast network of contacts who’ve helped him amass more than $900,000 in campaign contributions. That’s easily more than any of the other 22 Democratic candidatesrunning for Orange County House seats.

But Kerr, who declared his candidacy in July, lays claim to two attributes he says make him the only candidate who can beat Issa next year.

First, the resident of tony Rancho Santa Fe is the only Democrat who lives in San Diego County, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the two-county district’s voters. Applegate actually won in San Diego County last year, with Issa using the heavily GOP Orange County part of the district to carry him over the finish line. That’s led some to point to Orange County residency being an advantage.

But Kerr says San Diego County is the key, especially in a mid-term election when Republicans traditionally turn out in greater proportions than Democrats.

Second in Kerr’s campaign pitch, at least to this reporter, was his background: a blue-collar upbringing, a mother who died young after battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, related medical bills that took his dad years to pay off, a three-year stint in the Navy after high school and then a rough transition to civilian life, eventually graduating from college — the first in his family — with $20,000 of debt and then the experience of building a successful business.

That experience gives him particular insight into the working class including the need for Medicare-for-all, the need to better help veterans and the need make college more affordable, he said.

“We’re more similar than we are different on most issues,” Kerr, 62, said of the three Democrats in the race. “But I have passion driven by my background and experience.”

Kerr is also a major Democratic donor, giving at least $60,000 in the last two election cycles, according to Federal Elections Commission filings. He’s already given his own campaign $260,000 of his own money to complement the $240,000 he’s raised.

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