Meet Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Young Latino Arab-American Running for Congress

Lead Photo: Art by Alan López for Remezcla
Art by Alan López for Remezcla
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The 50th Congressional District in California – which encompasses parts of San Diego and Riverside counties – is one of the state’s most conservative district, which has allowed Rep. Duncan Hunter prosper. Since 2013, Hunter has served as the 50th District’s representative in the House. But as Hunter is embroiled in an ongoing finance scandal, he’ll face an uphill battle to remain at his post, and 29-year-old Ammar Campa-Najjar hopes to be the one to unseat him.

During the primary, Hunter received 48.2 percent of the vote and Campa-Najjar came in second at 16.9 percent. A recent internal poll from Campa-Najjar’s camp places the two candidates at a virtual tie. And Ammar just received his biggest boost: an endorsement from former President Barack Obama.

“Today, I’m proud to endorse such a wide and impressive array of Democratic candidates — leaders as diverse, patriotic, and big-hearted as the America they’re running to represent,” he wrote in a statement released Wednesday. “I’m confident that, together, they’ll strengthen this country we love by restoring opportunity, repairing our alliances and standing in the world, and upholding our fundamental commitment to justice, fairness, responsibility, and the rule of law. But first, they need our votes.”

If you’re now just learning about him, here’s what you need to know.


He's Latino and Arab-American.

Ammar was raised in San Diego and is the son of a Mexican-American mother and a Middle Eastern immigrant father. His family moved to Gaza for four years. They returned to San Diego when war broke out. “Only in America can the son of a Hispanic woman from the barrio and an Arab man from an occupied territory have the freedom to reimagine his life and pursue his dreams,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.



He worked in the White House.

Ammar took time off his studies to work on Obama’s campaign in 2012. He worked as the Deputy Regional Field Director for Obama’s re-election campaign. After the election, he worked in the White House. “When he was unable to afford the move to Washington, DC, he secured a loan to serve on the team that selected the 10 letters that the president read every night,” his campaign website reads. “Ammar read thousands of letters from citizens, learning much about the hopes, fears, and daily struggles of the American people.”


He supports preserving the environment.

The environment is one of his concerns. “We can take action now to protect our environment so that it is pure once again,” his site reads. “Recycling, choosing to use energy efficient appliances and improving our public transportation can make a big difference. Reducing pollution can help us preserve what is pure and beautiful about the places we live. It should be everyone’s goal to cleanse the environment, so our children and our children’s children can experience the uncontaminated purity and value of nature.”

He’s also spoken out about income inequality in California, which boosts one of the largest economies in the world. For the 50th District, he hopes to focus on the unemployment rate. “Instead of excessive government spending on corporate subsidies ($4 billion a year on oil and gas), I’d invest in booming industries like renewable energy to help 50th Congressional District residents punch their ticket to the middle class,” he told San Diego Union Tribune. “Our rural and suburban communities need a seat at the table when it comes to new workforce programs. As congressman, I will do everything I can to bring quality job opportunities home.”


He's working with Joe Trippi.

As he works to unseat Rep. Hunter, Ammar has an ace up his sleeve: Joe Trippi. The strategist, who took Dem Doug Jones to victory in conservative Alabama, is now turning his attention to Ammar.

“There’s a clear hunger right now in CA-50 for independent leadership,” Trippi said, according to the Times of San Diego. “Ammar can win this race. Just like we saw in Alabama with Doug Jones, voters want to end the divisiveness and chaos, and start working together to get things done. Incumbent Congressman Duncan Hunter represents scandal and partisanship. Ammar will bring integrity to Washington, and work with everyone for common sense solutions.”