SAN DIEGO — Who speaks for San Diego in Washington?
It’s up to you, starting with the June 7 primary, when voters will help pick the top two candidates from their congressional district to move on to the general election. You might see some unfamiliar names on your ballot: Re-districting has shaken up California’s political boundaries, potentially changing your member of Congress.
Here is a breakdown of the leading candidates in each race, based on fundraising, media coverage and campaign reach. Click on their names (listed in alphabetical order, with incumbents at the top) to view their campaign websites and review their stances in more detail.
We listed all additional registered candidates with their profession and a link to their sites at the bottom of each section.
The 48th Congressional District map now covers a large portion of East County in San Diego, extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into Temecula. Local communities include Poway, Santee, Lakeside, Alpine, Ramona and part of Escondido.
Darrell Issa (R) (Incumbent)
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is a familiar face in both the San Diego region and in Washington, where he serves on the powerful House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees. He is a retired U.S. Army captain and former CEO who has served as a lawmaker in various districts since 2000.
Issa has long made border security and immigration central issues in his campaigns, saying “we can’t keep our country safe if we don’t secure the border.” The congressman promotes greater funding and resources for Border Patrol, harsher penalties for smugglers and rejecting the concept of “sanctuary cities.”
In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Issa said California’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “greatly damaged the credibility of our public health system,” criticizing measures taken to close businesses and schools and to require vaccinations in the military.
A conservative who aligned himself closely with former President Donald Trump when he was in office, Issa has been a fierce critic of President Joe Biden’s administration. In his U-T interview, Issa said the president “has been a disaster for our economy” and criticized federal government spending.
Of Issa’s three registered challengers, Democrat Stephen Houlahan has the most elected experience and name recognition and has raised the most money. He also is the only competitor to submit a formal candidate statement for the ballot.
Houlahan, a nurse, grew up in the 48th District and lives there with his family now. He served as a Santee city council member from 2016 through 2020.
In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Houlahan said his top domestic priority was to strengthen the economy, saying he would do so by passing legislation to protect consumers from “price-gouging” in turbulent times and to “make the tax system fairer” by targeting corporations for higher rates.
Highlighting his professional experience treating sick San Diegans, Houlahan emphasizes COVID-19 and public health issues in his campaign literature, calling for greater access to affordable health care. That includes expanding Medicare to cover more people and also proposing a new program, “Medikid,” for uninsured children.
More candidates on the ballot:
- Lucinda KWH Jahn (No party preference) – entertainment industry technician
- Matthew G. Rascon (Democrat) – community volunteer
New boundaries in the 49th Congressional District removed a portion containing parts of the city of San Diego and added the Orange County city Laguna Niguel. The coastal North County district runs from Del Mar to Orange County’s Dana Point and includes Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton.
Political observers have highlighted the district as a potential battleground, and a Democratic mainstay in San Diego politics faces some established Republican challengers.
Mike Levin (D) (Incumbent)
Democrat Rep. Mike Levin is an environmental attorney first elected to congress in 2018, serving on the House Natural Resources and Veterans’ Affairs committees. He grew up in southern Orange County and lives in San Juan Capistrano.
Levin’s background in environmental law has made protecting his district’s natural resources and combating climate change a frequent subject of his campaign material. Levin says “we can protect our environment, combat the climate crisis, and grow our economy at the same time,” through programs that would expand renewable infrastructure and invest in clean manufacturing.
As the incumbent representative for Camp Pendleton, Levin also emphasizes his programs benefiting veterans and active duty service members, listing 15 bipartisan bills that he helped pass on the issue.
The congressman recently told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he supports a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and that he generally supports the Biden administration’s response to the war in Ukraine.
Republican Lisa Bartlett, the first Japanese American to serve on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, is one of the GOP candidates taking a run at Levin’s seat. Bartlett previously served two terms as mayor of Dana Point, and has a background in real estate and finance.
In a Ballotpedia candidate survey, Bartlett said “our country and state are headed in the wrong direction,” citing inflation, crime and “weak foreign policy.” Bartlett said she opposes COVID-19 “mandates and lockdowns” and wants to provide greater security at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a San Diego Union-Tribune interview last month, Bartlett said she wanted to reduce government spending, and provide more permanent housing and wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness — including programs specifically designated for veterans, which she helped implement in O.C. She also said she opposes universal health care.
The Republican former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, Maryott has run and lost against Levin before. Maryott describes himself as a conservative businessman and frequently emphasizes his status as a certified financial planner, saying Congress needs more “common-sense representation.”
Maryott has focused his campaign on the economy, with particular attention to inflation. He says the federal government spends too much and the government deficit has grown large enough to threaten programs like Medicare and Social Security — and the financial security of future generations. He’s called for limited spending and working toward balancing the budget.
Maryott supports greater investment in border security, more funding and training for police and imposing term limits on lawmakers.
Republican Christopher Rodriguez is a member of the Oceanside City Council and a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran. The owner of a mortgage and real estate company, Rodriguez’s campaign materials share his personal story of poverty, teenage fatherhood and military service.
Rodriguez says he would fight for “fiscal responsibility” in Congress, saying that “taxes are too high” and “spending is out of control.” He blames Democrats and federal spending for inflation, and says he would push back on new taxes proposed by left-leaning lawmakers.
On his website, Rodriguez calls for further funding police departments and for harsher criminal penalties on some offenses, for strengthening security at the U.S.-Mexico border and for giving parents more choice on where their kids attend school (and how classes are taught).
More candidates on the ballot:
- Josiah O’Neil (R) – sheriff’s deputy and businessman
- Nadia Bahia Smalley (D) – private nurse and businesswoman
- Renee Taylor (R) – cybersecurity manager and airman
The new 50th Congressional District encompasses coastal and central neighborhoods in the city of San Diego, plus Coronado, San Marcos and a portion of Escondido in North County. The Cook Political Report and other non-partisan analysts rate the 50th a “solid Democratic” district, indicating it could be an uphill climb for a Republican candidate to win there.
A well-known Democratic lawmaker enjoys the incumbent’s advantage in the 50th while a challenger on his left has outraised other candidates in the field.
Scott Peters (D) (Incumbent)
Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat, has represented parts of San Diego County in Congress since 2013. Peters serves on the House Energy and Commerce and Budget committees. The congressman was previously chair of the San Diego Unified Port District and a San Diego City Council member.
Peters says he has a proven track record of helping San Diego grow its economy, including securing major federal funding for scientific research and for local military facilities. He supports expanding to some form of universal health care and taking more steps to address climate change.
The congressman told the San Diego Union-Tribune his border priorities are two-fold: increasing trade by reducing border wait times and improving secure commerce facilities, and decreasing cross-border pollution in South Bay waterways by continuing to invest infrastructure there.
Democrat Kylie Taitano is a software engineer who was born in Guam and graduated from UC San Diego. She has attracted endorsements from some progressive groups, including the Sunrise Movement San Diego and the Progressive Democrats of America.
Taitano, a millennial, says her generation is “out of time” and seeks to distinguish herself from the left-leaning Peters by dubbing him an “establishment politician,” associated with “half-hearted compromise, incrementalism, and inaction.” Specifically, she highlights Peters’ lack of support for the progressive Green New Deal as an example of his purported unwillingness to act boldly.
Beyond combatting climate change, Taitano supports a federal cap on rent increases and more financial assistance for first-time homebuyers, a single-payer universal health care system and campaign finance reform.
More candidates on the ballot:
- David Chiddick (R) – businessman
- Corey Gustafson (R) – business owner and educator
- Adam Schindler (No party preference) – scientist
The 51st Congressional District map covers the heart of urban San Diego, from the College Area to Normal Heights and Kensington, Linda Vista and Clairemont, Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch and more. This solid blue district is home to San Diego’s youngest member of Congress and a conservative businessman hoping to unseat her.
Sara Jacobs (D) (Incumbent)
Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat, was elected in 2020 and serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees. A member of the powerful local family behind Qualcomm, Jacobs was a policy expert who worked at the United Nations and UNICEF before her election.
In an April interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jacobs touted her role in temporarily expanding the child tax credit, and vowed to continue fighting to make that benefit permanent. She also highlighted pieces of the Build Back Better COVID-19 recovery plan that she co-authored, including sections on environmental measures. Jacobs called for a transition to a “clean energy economy,” driven by major investments in new infrastructure.
Jacobs advocates for a complete overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers” and an immediate increase in the number of federal immigration judges available to process a backlog of asylum requests and other cases.
Republican Stan Caplan is a small business owner. He highlights his personal experience as a longtime San Diego resident and a single parent who can speak for “common sense solutions” instead of “political nonsense.”
Caplan lists reducing gas prices and overall energy costs as a top priority, saying the U.S. should produce more of its own oil and natural gas. He also calls for lifting taxes and regulations related to energy. Caplan says he can help ease inflation and lower expenses for consumers by shrinking government spending and decreasing taxes on low- and middle-wage earners.
The candidate claims that lax laws in California encourage crime, and calls for harsher penalties for criminal offenses. He also supports stricter enforcement of immigration law.
See an interview with Caplan below:
More candidates on the ballot:
- Jose Cortes (PF) – customer service representative
The 52nd Congressional District map encompasses San Diego County’s South Bay, with Chula Vista and National City along with Imperial Beach and the border communities of San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. The same Democratic congressman has represented parts of those communities since 2013 and is vying to continue.
The Cook Political Report and other non-partisan analysts rate the 52nd a “solid Democratic” district, indicating it could be an uphill climb for a Republican candidate to win there, but Vargas does face a challenge from his left flank as well.
Rep. Juan Vargas, a former San Diego City council member, serves on the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. He previously represented Imperial County along with San Diego, and issues specific to border communities have often been central to his campaigns and work in office.
Vargas lists tackling climate change among his top priorities, saying he supports the Green New Deal framework that calls for massive investments in clean technology, strict cuts to carbon emissions and to specifically address the way “underserved communities and people of color are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change.”
Vargas also highlights his support for U.S. military veterans, calls for comprehensive immigration reform and anti-discrimination laws that protect people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Democrat Joaquín Vázquez is a community organizer who was born and raised in City Heights. His campaign literature shares his personal story of family separation, with his father getting deported and Vázquez joining him for a time in Mexico after he and his mother got evicted. He came back to the U.S. for high school and college, rising to work in federal government during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Vázquez is challenging Vargas with anti-establishment messaging, criticizing corporate donations to members of Congress and what he perceives as a lack of urgency from sitting lawmakers. Vázquez says he will be a “true working-class champion.”
Specifically, he advocates for major progressive frameworks like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Vázquez also has an education reform platform centered around more funding for K-12 schools, making public colleges tuition free and forgiving student loan debt.
More candidates on the ballot:
- Tyler Geffeney (R) – minister and business owner
For more information on other local races in the California June Primary and voting tips, check out our 2022 Election Guide.