SAN DIEGO – Less than a month after he battles for reelection Nov. 6, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter is expected in a courtroom to face felony charges that he misused campaign contributions.
The congressman from Alpine pleaded not guilty in August and refused to take himself out of the race, saying the federal indictment alleging fraud and conspiracy was politically motivated. (Even if he had withdrawn, his name would have remained on the ballot.)
If Hunter wins reelection and is subsequently convicted, there is no constitutional provision or House rule that explicitly requires him to lose his seat, even if he is imprisoned and unable to vote on behalf of his district. Whether he would be pressured to resign could largely depend on which party comes out on top in congressional elections, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“You can be found guilty and still serve,” said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson.
Hunter is leading Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in the historically Republican 50th Congressional District despite the fact that nearly 4 in 10 likely voters believe the five-term incumbent is definitely or probably guilty, according to a poll released in late Septemberby Monmouth University.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, who has also pleaded not guilty in the case, are scheduled to go to court Dec. 3 for a status hearing. Proceedings were delayed after a defense attorney requested more time go through discovery material. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) also is fighting for reelection while under indictment — but his trial doesn’t start until 2020.