EL CAJON, Calif. -- El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells announced Tuesday that he will challenge incumbent and fellow Republican Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional District.
Wells was first elected to the El Cajon council in 2007 and has been mayor since 2013. He has a doctorate in psychology and runs a behavioral health practice.
"My dream is to serve the people of the 50th with honor, dignity and hard work. I know that I face a strong incumbent and I'm up for the change,'' Well said. "I might be the least likely person to run for Congress. I was not born into a wealthy or politically powerful family. I did not go to Ivy League schools -- I have in no way the right pedigree to run for Congress.''
Wells' announcement comes amid a federal investigation into whether Hunter, a five-term incumbent, misused campaign funds. Hunter responded to the announcement with this written statement:
"I'm a Marine who was elected to represent my constituents in Congress. Wells and others are politicans. Politicians are constantly running for higher office, that's what they do. I fight for my beliefs and principles every day, and that's what I will keep doing no matter how many politicans run against me."
Wells painted himself as a self-made man who started working at 11 to support himself, his aspirations and his family.
He said he stands for limited government, property rights, Second Amendment protections and a strong national defense and would fight against increases to the national debt if elected. He is opposed to abortion and said he supports President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Wells said that if he is elected, he would "help the 50th be recognized at a national level.''
But his controversial views on homelessness have already brought international attention to El Cajon. Speaking on Fox News in January, Wells blamed Democratic state lawmakers for promoting a policy of "normalizing homelessness.''
He criticized recent laws that resulted in the release of some prisoners and reclassified crimes, which he said is a problem because some of those who would otherwise be in prison are now living on the streets.
"Most of the homeless people that I run across are involved in drugs and alcohol, and a lot of the new laws have a lot to do with that,'' he said.
A law approved in October by the El Cajon council, which prohibited the feeding of homeless people on city-owned property, also drew headlines, with critics saying it criminalized helping the homeless. A dozen people were arrested in January during a food-sharing event in protest of the law, which expired in January when the San Diego County Board of Supervisors lifted a declaration of emergency over a hepatits A outbreak, which affected the homeless in outsized numbers.
Wells said the law was passed in an effort to protect people from contracting the disease, and indicated he might bring some of the same philosophies to Congress if he's elected.
"I've also spent my life working with the mentally ill. I feel that Washington has ignored this issuer for far too long now. This also encompasses the massive associated problems of drug addition and homelessness,'' he said.
Wells joins a field that includes Democrats Patrick Malloy, Pierre Beauregard, Josh Butner and Ammar Campa-Najjar and Republicans Hunter and Shamus Sayed.