In a blistering editorial, The San Diego Union-Tribune, California’s third-largest daily newspaper, called out Republican former Rep. Darrell Issa for a homophobic attack ad against gay GOP political rival Carl DeMaio. The two are vying for the congressional seat vacated by longtime anti-LGBTQ Rep. Duncan Hunter, who resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to a federal felony campaign corruption charge.
Democratic businessman Ammar Campa-Najjar is also running and was favored in polls before Hunter resigned. Gov. Newsom decided to hold the special election for the now vacant 50th Congressional District seat at the same time as the March primary, with the top two vote getters slugging it out in November.
“Darrell Issa should be ashamed,” the San Diego paper subtitled its op-ed. “Political observers have always known that the open 50th Congressional District seat would be a hardball affair. The stakes are high and the candidates running have major differences. But former Rep. Darrell Issa’s new attack ad targeting fellow Republican Carl DeMaio, the former San Diego councilman, and talk show host, is despicable. It’s nominally about who is the more devoted supporter of President Donald Trump and who is a bigger critic of illegal immigration. Yet the two headlines from printed stories the ad shows aren’t about these themes. Instead, they both identify DeMaio as gay.”
The ad uses images of two news article headlines, one from the Washington D.C. based outlet The Hill and the other from The Los Angeles Blade. Both describe DeMaio as “gay.”
“Clearly, Issa believes pointing out this fact about his opponent will help him win some voters in the 50th, which includes East County and most of non-coastal North County. It’s also clear he’s lost some of his humanity,” the Union-Tribune scoffed. “Gay-baiting is unacceptable and unforgivable.”
During the eighteen years he spent in the U. S. House representing neighboring Californian congressional districts, Issa voted consistently against LGBTQ equality.
DeMaio has been an out, married gay politician and public figure for years, though his conservative policy views often conflict those of LGBTQ progressives.
The specific Los Angeles Blade story cited in Issa’s attack ad called DeMaio “California’s gay GOP kingmaker,” referring to how state Republican candidates used DeMaio’s campaign to repeal the gas tax as a way to garner votes statewide. Ignoring DeMaio’s sexual orientation, GOP gubernatorial candidates vied for his endorsement after he led the successful June 2018 recall of Fullerton Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman over his vote for the gas tax.
Carl DeMaio with John Cox at a Gas Tax Repeal news conference. (Photo courtesy DeMaio)
San Diego Republican Party Chair Tony Krvaric described the Issa ad as highly inappropriate. “We encourage all candidates to stick to the issues,” he told San Diego station KGTV ABC10 News Thursday.
Others, some not DeMaio fans, chastised Issa on Twitter.
Republican City Councilman Chris Cate, in response to a tweet from Scott Lewis, CEO/editor in chief of the popular podcast ‘Voice of San Diego,’ labeled the Issa ad “horse shit.”
At a news conference Thursday, Issa defended the ad. “I certainly think that you should talk to The Hill and The Blade and ask them why they used those words, but the reality is those are real headlines talking about his real failures,” Issa said. “My opponent, for whatever reason, makes statements that have no bearing in truth and can’t be backed up. If we say something, we’re going to tell you what it’s attributed to.“
In an email fundraising pitch sent to supporters Saturday, Carl DeMaio’s sister Susan DeMaio-Mills wrote: “Did you see the attack ad that Darrell Issa launched against my brother Carl DeMaio on TV to make sure voters know he is gay? Someone needs to tell Darrell Issa — SO WHAT!? […] Our family’s reaction? Identity politics is an offensive and tired game played by Democrats — and ‘Desperate Darrell’ Issa.”
An effort by the Los Angeles Blade to reach Issa for comment was unsuccessful.