Environmental lawyer Mike Levin defeated Republican businesswoman Diane Harkey in the House race for California’s 49th Congressional District (CA-49). Levin, who won 53.5 percent of the vote, will represent the UC San Diego west campus in Congress for at least the next two years.
The CA-49 currently encompasses UC San Diego, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, and parts of Orange County. Since 2003, the district has been represented by Republican Darrell Issa. Issa was notably one of the richest members of Congress with an estimated net worth of $283 million. He announced at the beginning of this year that he did not intend to run for re-election.
The seat was closely contested in 2016, when Issa narrowly beat Democrat Doug Applegate by less than one percent. Applegate ran again in the 2018 primary election but came in fourth place behind Harkey, Levin, and former Clinton State Department contractor Sara Jacobs in the 2018 general election.
Levin began his campaign for Issa’s seat in March 2017. His campaign focused on promoting renewable energy, passing Medicare for all, and holding President Trump accountable. Before running for Congress, Levin was the executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Levin’s supporters had a heavy presence on campus. Campus political organizations such as the College Democrats at UCSD and Tritons for Mike Levin took an active role in campaigning for the candidate during the primary and general elections. College Democrats President Brianna Brawley stated that they made “10,000 calls, knocked on over 500 doors, and engaged with over 1,500 students face-to-face from welcome week to Election Day.”
Their work, along with that of other groups, seems to have paid off. A decisive 77 percent of Levin’s votes came from San Diego County. In comparison, only 68 percent of Diane Harkey’s votes came from San Diego County.
While Harkey finished ahead of Levin in the primary election, she was ultimately surpassed by a coalition of Democrat voters in the general election. Levin and Harkey disagreed fundamentally on a variety of issues. Harkey supported building a border wall, arming teachers, and repealing parts of Obamacare. Mike Levin opposed all of these ideas while supporting an assault weapons ban and California’s “sanctuary” immigration law.
Professor-in-Residence Gabi Laske of the UCSD Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics supported Levin’s election, describing him as an enthusiastic and passionate advocate for environmental issues.
“What I really like about Levin is that he is someone new to politics,” Laske told The Triton. “He wants to increase political discussions on climate change. This is something that the U.S. government largely ignored, or denied, for many years, while the rest of the planet tried to get a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.”
In other local House elections, incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter narrowly held onto the 50th Congressional District in East County, defeating former Obama staffer Ammar Campa-Najjar. The race made national news due to Hunter’s racist attacks on Campa-Najjar’s ancestry and federal indictment for campaign finance violations.
Democrat Scott Peters handily held onto the CA-52, which includes the eastern portion of campus and most of La Jolla and University City. Susan Davis, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, won her tenth straight term representing the central and downtown regions of San Diego. Finally, Imperial County and south San Diego Representative Juan Vargas held his seat, making this the first time four of the five San Diego representatives are Democrats.
“I am beyond thrilled to see Mike Levin elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Brawley. “After two years of hard work and community organizing, the people of California’s 49th District finally have real representation in Congress.
Tajairi Neuson is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @tajairi