California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter sent his formal letter of resignation on Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom, effective next Monday, Jan. 13.
The longtime anti-LGBTQ representative from San Diego County’s 50th Congressional District pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last Dec. 3 to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. In August 2018, Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted on 60 federal counts of using campaign funds in excess of $250,000 for personal use from paying for their children’s tuition to plane fare for their pet rabbit to paying for hotel rooms and other expenses for Hunter’s five mistresses.
During the three-year investigation, Hunter pointed out that his wife was responsible for handling the campaign’s finances. Eventually Hunter and his wife each pleaded guilty to a single count of felony conspiracy rather than face trial in the District Court for the Southern District of California starting on Jan. 22.
Hunter will be sentenced on March 17. He faces up to a maximum of five years in federal prison. However, the Alpine Republican, who was sworn into office Jan. 3, 2009, has garnered at least 11 years in office which goes toward an annual congressional pension of $32,538 once the 43-year old turns 62.
Hunter succeeded his equally anti-LGBTQ father Duncan Hunter Sr., who held that seat for 39 years.
Hunter Jr. was re-elected in 2018, despite being federally indicted, barely escaping a take-down by Obama administration official Ammar Campa-Najjar who is running again in 2020. The Democrat’s GOP opponents in the hotly contested 50th CD race include former California Congressman Darrell Issa and out former San Diego city council member Carl DeMaio.
In his two-page resignation letters to Pelosi and Newsom, Hunter did not mention the scandal, nor apologize. Instead he outlined his accomplishments and thanked his constituents. “It has been an honor to serve the people of California’s 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years,” he wrote.
Newsom has yet to announce if he will call for a special election to fill Hunter’s seat or leave it vacant until the elections in 10 months. Carl Luna, a political science professor at the University of San Diego told KPBS last month that if a special election were held, election results history shows that Republicans in the race would have the advantage.
“On special elections, you have a smaller turnout and usually the smaller the turnout the better it is for Republicans. Democrats need a whole bunch of people to show up…to win elections in contested districts,” Luna said. – Karen Ocamb contributed to this report.