LOS ANGELES — Just days after Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter was indicted by a federal grand jury, his Democratic opponent is trying to make him pay a political price.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar's campaign said it will begin airing a 30-second TV ad Thursday that calls the congressman an embarrassment to the Southern California district. It contends he was driven by greed during his time in Washington.
Hunter and his wife were charged last week with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to finance family trips to Italy and Hawaii, golf outings, school tuition, theater tickets — even fast food purchases — then scheming to hide the illegal spending in federal records.
They've pleaded not guilty.
Hunter calls the charges politically motivated.
"We didn't know, but now we do," a male narrator says in the ad, as a shot of the indictment flashes on the screen.
"It's more than unethical and illegal. He's an embarrassment," he says.
The ad ends with the narrator urging voters in the strongly Republican district to "put country over party" and support Campa-Najjar.
The federal charges have brought new attention to Campa-Najjar, 29, a former Obama administration Labor Department official making his first run for Congress. The Democrat's attempt to make the indictment a central campaign issue is no surprise in a race in which he remains an underdog.
The Hunter name is something of a political dynasty in the district. His father was elected to the seat in 1980 and held it until his son won in 2008. The 50th Congressional District east of San Diego is the most Republican in Southern California, where the party holds a nearly 15-point registration edge over Democrats.
Hunter has called the investigation a "witch hunt" and said he's eager to go to trial. In a statement last week, he blamed the indictment on "a culture operating within our Justice Department that is politically motivated."
"We are seeing this with President (Donald) Trump; we are seeing this with my case," Hunter said.
The ad will air until next week on CNN and MSNBC.