Congress

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s trial pushed to 2020

California Republican accused of misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds will go to court just weeks before primary

The trial of California Rep. Duncan Hunter is now scheduled to begin Jan. 14, 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s trial on charges that he improperly spent hundreds of thousands in campaign funds on lavish vacations, golf outings and copious amounts of alcohol has been moved to Jan. 14.

The California Republican’s trial was originally scheduled to start Sept. 10.

At a hearing Tuesday at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Judge Thomas J. Whelan pushed back the date after lawyers involved in the case requested a delay while a separate appeals process over Whelan’s denial to dismiss the 60-count indictment against Hunter plays out. 

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in August of last year for spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, including foreign travel, children’s school tuition and theater tickets, and for filing false campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Hunter allegedly spent $462.46 in campaign money on 30 tequila shots and a steak at El Tamarindo in Washington, D.C., in March 2016 during a bachelor party.

Margaret Hunter has since pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds that could result in her spending five years in prison and incurring a $250,000 fine.

The congressman was first elected to his Southern California seat in 2008, succeeding his father, Duncan L. Hunter. He narrowly won reelection last fall, despite representing the deep-red 50th District that President Donald Trump carried by 15 points in 2016.

Hunter is being challenged again by his 2018 Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, whom he beat by just 3 percentage points. And he drew a high-profile Republican challenger last week when former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio entered the race. Several other Republicans are also challenging Hunter this cycle.

The new trial date comes just weeks before California’s March primary.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Leans Republican.

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