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Ammar Campa-Najjar

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Ammar Campa-Najjar
BornLa Mesa, California
Alma materSan Diego State University (BA)
OccupationActivist and Non-profit director
Political partyDemocratic Party
Opponent(s)Duncan D. Hunter
  • Yasser Najjar (father)
  • Abigail Campa (mother)

Ammar Campa-Najjar is a political activist and Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in the 2020 election. He is running to represent California's 50th congressional district, which includes parts of San Diego County and Riverside County, against incumbent Congressman Duncan D. Hunter. He previously lost to Hunter in the 2018 election. He is the first Latino-Arab American to run for Congress.[1]

Family[edit | edit source]

His father Yasser Najjar is Palestinian and his mother Abigail Campa is Mexican American. His mother is a practicing Catholic.[2] Following the assassination of his parents by Israeli Special Forces Yasser Najjar and his siblings were sent to Cairo by King Hassan II of Morocco. The siblings were separated over the following years with Yasser attending school in England before immigrating to the US and obtaining American citizenship. He moved to San Diego in 1981 and earned an MBA from San Diego State University. Abigail Campa grew up in the Logan Heights neighborhood of San Diego and she and Yasser married in the 1980s. In 1994 Yasser traveled to Gaza to work for the newly legitimized Palestinian National Authority and explore his families roots. While working for the PNA he was seen as a moderate who advocated for peace. In his later years he was an important internal critic of Palestinian hardliners. During his time in Gaza he attempted to counteract the rising influence of HAMAS.[3]

Abu Yusuf al-Najjar[edit | edit source]

Campa-Najjar's grandfather Abu Yusuf al-Najjar has been the subject of significant controversy. In 1965 while working in Kuwait Abu Yusuf al-Najjar founded Fatah along with Yasser Arafat and other exiled Palestinians..[3] Abu Yusuf al-Najjar was long believed to have been affiliated with the Munich massacre. Al-Najjar was among those targeted in Israeli retribution attacks known as “Operation Wrath of God.” On April 9, 1973 al-Najjar and his wife were assassinated in front of their children in their home in Beirut, Lebanon by Israeli Commandos including future Prime Minister Ehud Barak.[3] In February 2018 a book published by Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First, challenged this historical assumption.[4] In 2019 in response to this new information Campa-Najjar withdrew some of the condemnations he had made against his grandfather.[5][6]

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

Campa-Najjar was born in La Mesa, California.[2] In 1998, his family left San Diego and he attended a Catholic school in the Gaza Strip.[7] At age fifteen-and-a-half, he worked as a janitor to help his single mother pay bills.[8] While in high school, Ammar converted to Christianity.[9] He considers himself to be Latino.[10]

He attended community college at Southwestern College, and later graduated from San Diego State University, where he earned dual bachelor's degrees in philosophy and psychology. He is trilingual in English, Spanish, and Arabic.[11]

Career[edit | edit source]

Campa-Najjar worked as a deputy regional field director for Barack Obama's 2012 presidential campaign.[12] During the Obama Administration, Campa-Najjar served in the Labor Department's Office of Public Affairs for the Employment and Training Administration. He was tasked with reading and helping select the 10 letters that President Obama would read each day.[13]

He has also worked for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce[12] as the communications and marketing director.[14] In this capacity, he prepared to interview then-candidate Donald Trump,[15] who ultimately pulled out of the scheduled event,[16] despite having earlier told Geraldo Rivera in an interview that he would attend.[17]

Campa-Najjar has advocated enhanced vetting and the empowerment of moderate Muslims to help end terrorism.[18] He has advocated for apprenticeship programs that pay people as they learn, for example the Registered Apprenticeship job training initiative, which has bipartisan support.[19][20][21]

2018 congressional campaign[edit | edit source]

Campa-Najjar cited the call to service in Barack Obama's farewell address as an inspiration to run for Congress.[14] Campa-Najjar supports environmentally sustainable developments, including solar farms.[22] Campa-Najjar has advocated for registering young people to vote, especially those who will be 18 by 2018, because they will be on the receiving end of climate change and increasing levels of indebtedness.[1] His top domestic issue is training Americans to fill job vacancies, and his top international issue is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has cited economic inequality as a top issue facing California, "other than the severe droughts and fires"[21]

On February 2, 2018, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Campa-Najjar had outraised both the Republican incumbent, Duncan Hunter, and his Democratic rival, Josh Butner.[23] On June 5, 2018, Campa-Najjar placed second in the nonpartisan blanket primary, earning a chance to compete against Hunter in November[12]. Campa-Najjar credited support from Our Revolution as an important factor in the primary victory.[24] The San Diego Union-Tribune has explicitly endorsed Campa-Najjar as superior to Duncan Hunter, citing the "lunacy" of incumbent Duncan Hunter.[25]

The 2018 campaign was defined by the use of Islamophobic and bigoted language by the Hunter campaign.[26] In October 2018 Hunter's father Duncan Hunter doubled down on his son's hateful rhetoric and attacked Campa-Najjar as a security risk.[27]

Coverage[edit | edit source]

Campa-Najjar's candidacy has attracted international attention due to allegations that his paternal grandfather was involved with the 1972 Munich massacre.[28] Campa-Najjar acknowledged and denounced the alleged crimes of his grandfather who died in 1973, 16 years before he was born.[29]

Campa-Najjar's campaign has also received a notable degree of coverage following the indictment of his opponent, Duncan Hunter, for stealing campaign funds for personal use.[30] Hunter's scandal gave Campa-Najjar's campaign a boost but it was not enough to overcome Hunter's negative messaging.[31]

He also received significant international coverage as the first Arab-Latino congressional candidate in the United States.[32][33]

His loss garnered considerable coverage because of the effective use of anti-Muslim stereotypes against a non-Muslim candidate.[34][35] However Campa-Najjar has said that he does not blame bigotry for his defeat.[36]

2020 congressional campaign[edit | edit source]

He has announced that he will run for the same seat again in 2020.[12][37][38] He announced his candidacy on Twitter a day after filing his paperwork with the FEC.[39] He has stated that his 2020 campaign will run on the dual platform of economic security and national security.[40] Campa-Najjar says that this time around he will make a more concerted effort to reach out to conservative voters, especially veterans.[41] Unlike the Republican field he faced no competition in primaries.[42][43][44]

Controversies[edit | edit source]

CAIR and Muslim Brotherhood support[edit | edit source]

In 2018 Duncan Hunter's ccampaign ran an ad in which they claimed that Campa-Najjar had received support from Council on American–Islamic Relations and the Muslim Brotherhood. The fact checking organization Politifact comprehensively evaluated the claim found it to be entirely without merit.[45]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 McNamara, Brittney (May 29, 2017). "Why This Young Latinx-Arab American Is Running For Congress". Teen Vogue. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Campa-Najjar, Ammar (November 16, 2016). "From the Barrio to Gaza to the White House". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Clark, Charles T. (October 31, 2018). "Under attack by Hunter, Campa-Najjar's complex family history spans continents and generations of Middle East strife". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  4. Horovitz, David (January 26, 2018). "Mossad chose not to nab Mengele, didn't hunt down Munich terrorists, book claims". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  5. Touchberry, Ramsey (July 17, 2019). "Ammar Campa-Najjar, Duncan Hunter's Opponent, Has 'Renewed Skepticism' of Relative Once Tied to Terrorism". Newsweek. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  6. Billingsley, Lloyd (September 27, 2019). "Republicans Aim To Be Hunter Killers". California Globe. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  7. Campa-Najjar, Ammar (November 19, 2016). "I'm a Hispanic-Arab American, and Trump's election doesn't shake my belief in America". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  8. Ruth, Brooke; Cavanaugh, Maureen (April 18, 2018). "Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar Counting On Underrepresented Voters In 50th District". Midday Edition. KPBS. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  9. Latimer, Brian (April 20, 2017). "A young Latino Arab American throws his hat in the Congressional ring". NBC News Latino. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  10. Ruth, Brooke; Hindmon, Jade (October 2, 2018). "Ammar Campa-Najjar On His Race For the 50th Congressional Seat". Midday Edition. KPBS. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  11. Campa-Najjar, Ammar (June 21, 2017), "10 Fun Facts With Ammar Campa-Najjar", Pero Like, retrieved June 28, 2018 – via YouTube
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "Ammar Campa-Najjar". Ballotpedia. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  13. Mehta, Seema (August 23, 2017). "Obama's former staffers hope to build upon his legacy as they run for office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Campa-Najjar, Ammar. "About Ammar". Ammar Campa-Najjar for Congress. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  15. Schreckinger, Ben (October 1, 2015). "Donald Trump is about to walk into a buzz saw". Politico. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  16. Campbell, Colin (October 2, 2015). "Hispanic business group thrashes Donald Trump for suddenly backing out of its event". Business Insider. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  17. Rivera, Geraldo (September 3, 2015). "Geraldo to Trump: You're wrong, boss, immigrant murder wave is factually false". Fox News. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  18. Campa-Najjar, Ammar (February 25, 2017). "Enhanced vetting, moderate Muslims are key to ending terrorism". TheHill. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  19. Fadulu, Lolade (November 21, 2017). "The Push for Education Programs That Pay People As They Learn". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  20. Campa-Najjar, Ammar (January 3, 2017). "Opinion: An Obama 'apprenticeship' that Trump should continue". NBC News Latino. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  21. 21.0 21.1 "50th Congressional District candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar on the issues". The San Diego Union-Tribune. May 24, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  22. McPhate, Mike (June 26, 2017). "California Today: Young, Arab, Latino and Vying for Congress". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  23. Stewart, Joshua (February 2, 2018). "Young, first-time candidates lead in campaign finances". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  24. Riotta, Chris (July 10, 2018). "Is Bernie Sanders' revolution finally taking hold in America?". The Independent. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  25. "50th district: Anyone but Duncan Hunter". The San Diego Union-Tribune (Editorial). May 25, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  26. Dickerson, Tim (October 18, 2018). "How Do You Defeat a Bigot?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  27. Clark, Charles T. (October 16, 2018). "Former Rep. Duncan Hunter goes to bat for his indicted son in bitter congressional re-election bid". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  28. Tibon, Amir (February 20, 2018). "Grandson of Munich Massacre Terrorist Is Running for Congress – Sounding a Peaceful Tone on Israel". Haaretz. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  29. Stewart, Joshua (February 21, 2018). "Congressional candidate renounces grandfather's violent legacy, calls for Middle East peace". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  30. Golshan, Tara (August 22, 2018). "The campaign fraud scandal around California Republican Duncan Hunter, explained". Vox. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  31. Grim, Ryan; Jilani, Zaid (August 22, 2018). "Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Working-Class Progressive, Gets a Boost from Indictment of Duncan Hunter". The Intercept. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  32. Watson, Julie; Blood, Michael R. (August 26, 2018). "Meet US Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar: He's 29, Arab and suddenly relevant". Al Arabiya. Associated Press. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  33. Younes, Ali (May 4, 2018). "Palestinian-Mexican American politician running for US Congress". Al Jazeera News. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  34. Ismail, Aymann (November 7, 2018). "The Chilling Result in California's 50th District". Slate. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  35. Rosenburg, Jacob (August 13, 2019). "It's Not Just Fox Pumping Out the Racist "Replacement" Conspiracy. Here Are 15 Republicans Fanning the Flames". Mother Jones. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  36. Kopp, Emily (November 15, 2019). "Ammar Campa-Najjar Does Not Blame Bigotry for His Defeat". Roll Call. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  37. Abcarian, Robin (February 12, 2019). "Column: Ammar Campa-Najjar is running again despite racist attacks in midterms". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  38. White, Jeremy B. (August 29, 2019). "Issa weighs return to the House — through Duncan Hunter". Politico. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  39. Kopp, Emily (January 3, 2019). "Ammar Campa-Najjar will challenge indicted Duncan Hunter again in 2020". Roll Call. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  40. Ross, David (August 14, 2019). "Democratic candidate for congress Campa-Najjar: "When the other side goes low, I go local"". Valley Road Runner. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  41. Schatz, Bryan (February 8, 2019). "Ammar Campa-Najjar Is Ready for a Rematch Against Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter". Mother Jones. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  42. Smolens, Michael (October 10, 2019). "Column: Democrat seeks to keep distance from GOP primary fight in Rep. Hunter district". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  43. Connolly, Griffin (October 9, 2019). "Ex-Rep. Darrell Issa is not Duncan Hunter's only problem in California primary". Roll Call. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  44. Edmondson, Catie (September 25, 2019). "In California, Former Congressman Darrel Issa Will Challenge Indicted Congressman Duncan Hunter". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  45. Jacobson, Louis (November 1, 2018). "Did CAIR, Muslim Brotherhood back a Democratic candidate?". PolitiFact. Retrieved 6 September 2019.

Category:Politicians from San Diego Category:California Democrats Category:Living people Category:American political candidates Category:American people of Palestinian descent Category:American people of Mexican descent Category:People from San Diego County, California Category:People from La Mesa, California Category:Candidates in United States elections, 2018

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