EXCLUSIVE: Issa Challenger, Colonel Doug Applegate, on Why He's Running, and What's at Stake – Part 1

I had the opportunity to sit down recently with Retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate, an Iraq War veteran and political newcomer who’s in a horse race with incumbent Darell Issa for California’s 49th Congressional District seat. We covered a range of issues.  This post is the first in a series.

Issa v. Applegate: A Study in Sharp Contrasts

WildLilac chats with Col. Doug Applegate at the Hillstreet Cafe, Oceanside CA. July 13, 2016

Darrell Issa was first elected to Congress in 2000. He had amassed a fortune manufacturing car alarms and auto theft systems, which is ironic (or perhaps not) given the history of auto theft allegations against him. Issa is currently the wealthiest member of Congress with a net worth of 357 million dollars. He’s been reelected every two years with approximately 60% of the vote.  He's never been at risk of losing.

Until now.

In our “open” primary, in which the top two candidates regardless of party advance to the General Election, Doug Applegate tied Darrell Issa in San Diego County, and came within about 5 points in more conservative Orange County.

Why now? Several stars are aligned….

Re-districting that occurred in 2012 has made California’s 49th slightly more friendly terrain for Democrats:

Change in Republican advantage as a result of 2012 redistricting of California’s 49th District.

Meanwhile, Darrell Issa has masterfully shored up his reputation for being unlikable and unethical:

  • His office was recently ranked #1 in privately funded travel, making us wonder which special interests are most special to him. Maybe the same ones which are feeding his campaign coffers?
  • He's been rated one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
  • Here in the 49th, constituents complain he doesn't show up.  He's been labeled by some folks as "Missing in Action Issa."

And Issa has embraced Donald Trump, who is viewed by Californians about as favorably as the drought.

Most importantly, we finally have a viable challenger.

Workhorse v. Show Horse

In contrast to Darrell Issa, Colonel Doug Applegate, Iraq War veteran and distinguished attorney, is likable, ethical, and hard-working.  He is an antidote to Issa and his ilk in Congress whose preoccupation with partisan witch-hunting makes progress impossible.

I've spent several hours with the Colonel in a variety of settings, and my impression is that he's got the right stuff, not just as a candidate but as a future Representative. He's a leader and a listener, a smart guy, and a nice one.  He remembers people he meets on the trail. He understands the gravity of issues facing our nation. He gives considerable thought to voters' concerns and possible solutions. He's open-minded yet committed to progressive ideals.

I get the impression that Colonel Applegate is a doer more than a talker.  Lord knows we've got enough bloviators in Congress.  Remember how Hillary Clinton was characterized in 2002 as a freshman Senator from New York?

Rather than becoming a Senate show horse, Clinton emerged as a Senate workhorse.

That's what I predict for future Representative Doug Applegate (D-Calif.).  He’s going to be a workhorse in Congress.

In the Candidate’s Words

Retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D), candidate for the U.S. Congress from California District 49.

I asked Colonel Applegate about his background and why he decided to run.  He replied that his background “is the reason” he’s running.  Citing 32 years of active and reserve service as an infantry officer, company commander, judge advocate, and civilian trial attorney, the Colonel said:

Nobody ever called me in any of those jobs because everything was going well.  They called me because they had problems.  The biggest problem right now is the roadblocks to solutions in the House of Representatives.  One of the key architects of those roadblocks is Darrell Issa.  That’s why I’m running: to remove the roadblocks.

And, he’s running for his children. 

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents were kids, how we believed that our lives would be better than the generation before us?  That’s what I want for my kids.

That’s what every dad and mom wants, right?  Fortunately for us, this dad is more a doer than a talker.  After 32 years of service to the country, he’s asking to serve again.  It would be easy for Colonel Applegate to kick back and enjoy the retirement he’s earned but, nope, he’s not done serving the country.  He wants to remove the roadblocks to a better future for our kids.  Hell yes!  

Oh by the way, the Colonel will benefit here in San Diego County from being a proponent of rescuing animals from shelters.  A powerful and influential group of local activists has successfully lobbied several city councils to pass legislation banning the sale of puppy-mill dogs.  One of the group’s leaders, who met with Applegate recently to discuss his views on animal rights, told me that they are enthusiastically backing him.  I have personally witnessed what this group of folks can do for local candidates, and can’t wait to see how they turn out the vote to help fire Darrell Issa.

State of the Race

The Applegate campaign announced a few days ago that the DCCC has upgraded the contest to an “Emerging Race” within the “Red to Blue” program. A recent poll showed that Applegate and Issa are now tied.

Stay tuned for more in this series.