Ammar Campa-Najjar is a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives for the 50th district in California. Duncan Hunter, the Republican incumbent, was expected to easily win the seat again. But on Tuesday, news broke that Hunter and his wife had been indicted for allegedly misusing $250,000 in campaign funds. The couple reportedly used the money to pay for private school for their children, buy plane tickets for themselves and their pets, and pay for dental work.
The 29 year old Ammar Campa-Najjar is now looking like a more serious candidate, since it’s too late for Republicans to put up a new candidate against him. Duncan Hunter’s name can’t be taken off the ballot, and California doesn’t allow a write-in vote.
Here’s what you need to know about Campa-Najjar:
1. Campa-Najjar Is the Son of a Mexican-American Mother and a Palestinian Father, and He Spent Three Years of His Childhood in Gaza
Campa-Najjar’s father was a Palestinian who moved to California, met Campa-Najjar’s mother, and started a family. When Campa-Najjar was nine years old, the family moved to Gaza. They spent three years living there.
But when Campa-Najjar was 12, he says Gaza grew too violent for the family to stay any longer. He, his mother, and his brother moved back to California, leaving their father behind.
Campa-Najjar says that after moving back to California, the family was very poor. His mother worked, and he also got a job at a janitor in the local church. He went to community college and later graduated from San Diego State University.
2. His Grandfather Was a Fatah Leader Who Was Allegedly Linked to the ‘Munich Massacre’
Campa-Najjar is the grandson of Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, a senior member of Fatah who is accused of helping to orchestrate the so-called Munich Massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The Israeli army retaliated for that massacre in an operation known as the “wrath of God.” Campa-Najjar’s grandfather died in that retaliatory operation.
After the Haaretz article came out, Campa-Najjar issued a statement which said, “For the sake of the victims, I hoped this tragedy wouldn’t be politicized. But if these old wounds must be re-opened, then I pray God gives purpose to their unspeakable pain. I pray that purpose is to see peace prioritized by my generation of Palestinians, Israelis and the whole of humanity.” Campa-Najjar has denounced his grandfather’s actions and called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
3. Buzzfeed Called Campa-Najjar a ‘Hot Guy’ and Said People Are ‘Thirsting’ For Him
Back in 2017, Buzzfeed wrote a gushing article about Campa-Najar’s good looks and ran down the enthusiastic tweets he was inspiring. You can read the article here.
Buzzfeed asked Campa-Najjar how he felt about the praise he was getting. He replied, “I mean, it’s flattering. I hope people focus on my ideas and not my looks.”
4. After News Broke About His Opponent’s Indictment, Campa-Najjar Called on Voters to ‘Put Country Above Party’
Campa-Najjar’s statement reads, “The division, chaos and corruption in Washington has gone too far. Today’s indictment confirms just how deep this corruption can reach when someone like Duncan Hunter Jr. is in it for himself instead of representing the people. Now is the time to put country over party and rise against this corruption and rise.”
In spite of Hunter’s indictment, analysts are by no means sure that Campa-Najjar will win the coming election. Duncan Hunter’s name is still on the ballot, and he himself has called the indictment “politically motivated” — which seems to imply that he is not going to give up any time soon. In California’s no-party primary system, Hunter trounced Campa-Najjar, winning over 47 percent of the vote. Campa-Najjar, the second place candidate, won a little over 17 percent.
5. Campa-Najjar Worked on Obama’s Re-Election Campaign and Then Won a Job in the White House
In 2012, Campa-Najjar worked as Deputy Regional Field Director for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Following Obama’s win, Campa-Najjar got a job working for the White House executive office, on the team of people that chose the ten letters from the public that the president read every night.
Campa-Najjar then worked for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce before going on to a position at the US Department of Labor.