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Meet the congressional candidates running to represent San Diego County

SAN DIEGO — Voters will soon decide who speaks for San Diego County in Washington.

In the Nov. 8 election, voters will cast their ballots for a representative in their congressional district.

Voters might see some unfamiliar names on their ballot: Re-districting has shaken up California’s political boundaries, potentially changing their members of Congress.

Here is a breakdown of the candidates in each race. Click on their names (listed in alphabetical order, with incumbents at the top) to view their campaign websites and review their stances in more detail.

48th District

The 48th Congressional District map now covers a large portion of East County in San Diego, extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into Temecula. Local communities include Poway, Santee, Lakeside, Alpine, Ramona and part of Escondido.

The Cook Political Report and other non-partisan analysts rate the new 48th a “solid Republican” district, indicating it could be an uphill climb for a Democratic challenger.

Darrell Issa (R) (Incumbent)

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is a familiar face in both the San Diego region and in Washington, where he serves on the powerful House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees. He is a retired U.S. Army captain and former CEO who has served as a lawmaker in various districts since 2000.

Issa has long made border security and immigration central issues in his campaigns, saying “we can’t keep our country safe if we don’t secure the border.” The congressman promotes greater funding and resources for Border Patrol, harsher penalties for smugglers and rejecting the concept of “sanctuary cities.”

In an April interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Issa said California’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “greatly damaged the credibility of our public health system,” criticizing measures taken to close businesses and schools and to require vaccinations in the military.

A conservative who aligned himself closely with former President Donald Trump when he was in office, Issa has been a fierce critic of President Joe Biden’s administration. In the U-T interview, Issa said the president “has been a disaster for our economy” and criticized federal government spending.

Stephen Houlahan (D)

Democrat Stephen Houlahan, a nurse, grew up in the 48th District and lives there with his family now. He served as a Santee city council member from 2016 through 2020.

In an April interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Houlahan said his top domestic priority was to strengthen the economy, saying he would do so by passing legislation to protect consumers from “price-gouging” in turbulent times and to “make the tax system fairer” by targeting corporations for higher rates.

Highlighting his professional experience treating sick San Diegans, Houlahan emphasizes COVID-19 and public health issues in his campaign literature, calling for greater access to affordable health care. That includes expanding Medicare to cover more people and also proposing a new program, “Medikid,” for uninsured children.

49th District

New boundaries in the 49th Congressional District removed a portion containing parts of the city of San Diego and added the Orange County city Laguna Niguel. The coastal North County district runs from Del Mar to Orange County’s Dana Point and includes Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton.

Political observers have highlighted the district as a potential battleground, and a Democratic mainstay in San Diego politics faces some established Republican challengers.

Mike Levin (D) (Incumbent)

Democrat Rep. Mike Levin is an environmental attorney first elected to congress in 2018, serving on the House Natural Resources and Veterans’ Affairs committees. He grew up in southern Orange County and lives in San Juan Capistrano.

Levin’s background in environmental law has made protecting his district’s natural resources and combating climate change a frequent subject of his campaign material. Levin says “we can protect our environment, combat the climate crisis, and grow our economy at the same time,” through programs that would expand renewable infrastructure and invest in clean manufacturing.

As the incumbent representative for Camp Pendleton, Levin also emphasizes his programs benefiting veterans and active duty service members, listing 15 bipartisan bills that he helped pass on the issue.

The congressman told the San Diego Union-Tribune in April that he supports a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and that he generally supports the Biden administration’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Brian Maryott (R)

The Republican former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, Maryott has run and lost against Levin before. Maryott describes himself as a conservative businessman and frequently emphasizes his status as a certified financial planner, saying Congress needs more “common-sense representation.”

Maryott has focused his campaign on the economy, with particular attention to inflation. He says the federal government spends too much and the government deficit has grown large enough to threaten programs like Medicare and Social Security — and the financial security of future generations. He’s called for limited spending and working toward balancing the budget.

Maryott supports greater investment in border security, more funding and training for police and imposing term limits on lawmakers.

50th District

The new 50th Congressional District encompasses coastal and central neighborhoods in the city of San Diego, plus Coronado, San Marcos and a portion of Escondido in North County. The Cook Political Report and other non-partisan analysts rate the 50th a “solid Democratic” district, indicating it could be an uphill climb for a Republican candidate to win there.

A well-known Democratic lawmaker enjoys the incumbent’s advantage in the 50th while a challenger on his left has outraised other candidates in the field.

Scott Peters (D) (Incumbent)

Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, has represented parts of San Diego County in Congress since 2013. Peters serves on the House Energy and Commerce and Budget committees. The congressman was previously chair of the San Diego Unified Port District and a San Diego City Council member.

Peters says he has a proven track record of helping San Diego grow its economy, including securing major federal funding for scientific research and for local military facilities. He supports expanding to some form of universal health care and taking more steps to address climate change.

The congressman told the San Diego Union-Tribune in April that his border priorities are two-fold: increasing trade by reducing border wait times and improving secure commerce facilities, and decreasing cross-border pollution in South Bay waterways by continuing to invest infrastructure there.

Corey Gustafson (R)

Corey Gustafson is a business owner and educator. He cofounded a Vista-based brewery in 2019. As director of Oxford’s study abroad international relations program, he lectures on American foreign policy and national security.

On his campaign website, Gustafson calls for reducing the cost of rent and prioritizing American homebuyers by putting an end to corporate housing purchases and changing zoning. He advocates for implementing term limits in Washington, expanding domestic energy production and balancing the budget.

When asked about which issues about border life he would prioritize, Gustafson told the San Diego Union-Tribune in August that he would “make it a priority to advocate for efficient and effective technology, staffing and operations at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

51st District

The 51st Congressional District map covers the heart of urban San Diego, from the College Area to Normal Heights and Kensington, Linda Vista and Clairemont, Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch and more. This solid blue district is home to San Diego’s youngest member of Congress and a conservative businessman hoping to unseat her.

Sara Jacobs (D) (Incumbent)

Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat, was elected in 2020 and serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees. A member of the powerful local family behind Qualcomm, Jacobs was a policy expert who worked at the United Nations and UNICEF before her election.

In an April interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jacobs touted her role in temporarily expanding the child tax credit, and vowed to continue fighting to make that benefit permanent. She also highlighted pieces of the Build Back Better COVID-19 recovery plan that she co-authored, including sections on environmental measures. Jacobs called for a transition to a “clean energy economy,” driven by major investments in new infrastructure.

Jacobs advocates for a complete overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and an immediate increase in the number of federal immigration judges available to process a backlog of asylum requests and other cases.

Stan Caplan (R)

Republican Stan Caplan is a small business owner. He highlights his personal experience as a longtime San Diego resident and a single parent who can speak for “common sense solutions” instead of “political nonsense.”

Caplan lists reducing gas prices and overall energy costs as a top priority, saying the U.S. should produce more of its own oil and natural gas. He also calls for lifting taxes and regulations related to energy. Caplan says he can help ease inflation and lower expenses for consumers by shrinking government spending and decreasing taxes on low- and middle-wage earners.

The candidate claims that lax laws in California encourage crime, and calls for harsher penalties for criminal offenses. He also supports stricter enforcement of immigration law.

52nd District

The 52nd Congressional District map encompasses San Diego County’s South Bay, with Chula Vista and National City along with Imperial Beach and the border communities of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. The same Democratic congressman has represented parts of those communities since 2013 and is vying to continue.

The Cook Political Report and other non-partisan analysts rate the 52nd a “solid Democratic” district, indicating it could be an uphill climb for a Republican candidate to win there.

Juan Vargas (D) (Incumbent)

Rep. Juan Vargas, a former San Diego City council member, serves on the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. Issues specific to border communities have often been central to his campaigns and work in office.

Vargas lists tackling climate change among his top priorities, saying he supports the Green New Deal framework that calls for massive investments in clean technology, strict cuts to carbon emissions and to specifically address the way “underserved communities and people of color are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change.”

Vargas also highlights his support for U.S. military veterans, calls for comprehensive immigration reform and anti-discrimination laws that protect people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

Tyler Geffeney (R)

Tyler Geffeney is a minister and pastor who has run several mortgage finance companies, according to his campaign website.

On his website, Geffeney, who is anti-abortion, calls for the expansion of pregnancy support centers and CalWORKS programs. He also calls for safe and legal immigration, saying “we need to close off our porous border while making the pathway to legal citizenship achievable.”

In the education sphere, Geffeney is a proponent of school choice. When it comes to the economy, Geffeney vows to “reinvigorate the economy of the 52nd district through decreased regulations” and incentives that are business-friendly.