LA JOLLA ELECTION GUIDE: Meet the candidates for U.S. Congress, 52nd Congressional District in San Diego

Primary day is June 5.

We don’t have the space necessary to be your comprehensive guide to the statewide primary election on June 5, during which all San Diegans can vote for governor and lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, insurance commissioner and more. But we can certainly laser in on the local races with the most at stake for La Jolla.So, we present our guide to the primary election for California’s 52nd Congressional District, for the State Assembly in the 78th District and for County Board of Supervisors in the 4th District. This election will determine which two candidates in each race earn the right to run in our district’s Nov. 6 general election. (California employs a top-two primary system, in which any candidate can run but only the top two winners, regardless of party affiliation, advance.)

But first, here are some handy-dandy voting facts to help you avoid any electile dysfunction…

Who can vote:
Anyone who is 1) a California resident; 2) a U.S. citizen; 3) 18 years or older on Election Day; 4) not currently in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; and 5) not found mentally incompetent by a court of law.

How to register:
By mail: Send a copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form to Secretary of State Elections Division, 1500 11th St., Sacramento, CA 95814. (Either download one from; pick one up at any DMV, county elections office, San Diego Library branch or U.S. Post Office; or request one by calling 800-345-8683.)

What you’ll need:
Your California driver license or ID card number, or the last four digits of your social security number, and your date of birth.

Registration deadline:
All forms must be submitted or received by 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 21. (If you recently registered online, please wait at least 24 hours before checking your registration status.)

Check your registration status:

Find your polling place:

Vote-by-mail (formerly absentee) ballot:
You can be mailed a ballot featuring every choice you’d have at a polling place, as well as instructions on how to mark and return it. To request one, contact Michael Vu, Registrar of Voters, P.O. Box 85656, San Diego, CA 92186-5656, call (858) 565-5800 or e-mail: Requests for vote-by-mail ballots must be received before May 29.

52nd U.S. Congressional District Primary

No fewer than six Republicans are vying to unseat incumbent Scott Peters, the Democrat who’s running for a fourth term in our traditionally swing district. Below is a brief rundown of each candidate and their responses to three questions we asked.

Scott Peters, Democrat

Scott Peters
Scott Peters COURTESY

Before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, Peters, 59, served two terms on the San Diego City Council, including three years as Council President. He also chaired the San Diego Unified Port District and was a member of the California Coastal Commission. Prior to entering public service, he had an 11-year legal career in private practice, specializing in environmental law. He also served five years as deputy counsel for the County of San Diego.

Peters and his wife of 32 years, Lynn Gorguze, have lived in La Jolla, where they raised their two children, since 1989. Peters received 56.53 percent of the vote in the 2015 Congressional election, defeating Republican businesswoman Denise Gitsham.

Why are you running?

To continue fighting for the issues that San Diegans care about most: a strong economy that brings opportunity to working families; a robust national defense and keeping America’s promises to our veterans; environmental protections to curb climate change and preserve our natural resources; quality, affordable education for every student; and equality and justice for all Americans.

What are the three most important issues to you?

1) Building a prosperous economy that gives all Americans a fair shot at making their own way and succeeding. In San Diego that means supporting our innovation economy with investments in scientific research and education and making it easier for small businesses to thrive.

2) Maintaining the safety and security of our nation and neighborhoods, which includes a strong, well-funded defense equipped with the most advanced technology available to keep us and our service men and women safe from new and emerging threats, as well as ensuring that our veterans receive the care and support they’ve earned after they complete their service. That support includes helping them transition into the civilian workforce. To keep our nation safe and secure, we must also reform our nation’s gun safety laws and mental health system to reduce the senseless mass shootings that have plagued our nation and stolen too many young lives.

3) Addressing climate change, protecting America’s robust natural resources and keeping our air and water clean.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

The only way to tackle tough problems is by putting politics aside and working together. Since coming to Congress I’ve made every effort to get to know and to work with my Republican colleagues. Building relationships with people on the other side of the aisle takes work — and I’ve worked at it. I’ve made time to build friendships with several Republicans at dinners, events and in early-morning bipartisan workouts at the gym.

I’m a member of two invitation-only bipartisan groups, based on my demonstrated willingness to work together to find common ground and achieve solutions. They are the 26-member Bipartisan Working Group and the 48-member Problem Solvers Caucus. I’ve also authored and passed several bipartisan pieces of legislation with my Republican colleagues.

Just last month, I introduced a bipartisan bill that would offer vocational training and education services to every single service member who is currently deployed. I’ve also proposed several campaign finance, procedural and disclosure reforms as part of my Fix Congress Now plan that includes, among other changes: making campaign Super PACs disclose “dark money” contributions; forcing Congress to vote on bills that are passed out of committee within 60 days; and prohibiting members of Congress from getting paid if they don’t pass a budget.

I’ve been rated one of the most independent members of Congress for my willingness to vote with the other side when I’ve thought it was the right thing to do for my district. I’ve consistently put country over party and I’ve been fervent and outspoken in asking my colleagues to do the same.

THE CHALLENGERS (listed alphabetically):

Michael Allman,

Michael Allman
Michael Allman COURTESY

Michael Allman, 57, worked in the energy industry for 15 years. From 1998 to 2012, he held leadership positions with Sempra Energy, serving as the chairman, president, and CEO of the Southern California Gas Company, the largest natural gas distribution company in the U.S. Prior to that, he was president/CEO of Sempra Generation, where he built one of the largest renewable energy businesses in the country.

Allman has described himself as a libertarian-leaning Republican, but noted that his own political philosophy isn’t too significant because he has designed a website and software program that will let voters from the district tell him exactly how they want him to vote on legislation — and he promises to vote his constituents’ way even if he personally disagrees with it.

Raised in a small town in Western Michigan by a salesman dad and secretary wife, Allman has lived in North San Diego County for more than 20 years with his wife, Lee Ann. They raised a son and a daughter here, who are now both adults.

Why are you running?

My desire to run for Congress had been building for some time, as I saw what was happening to America. Let’s face it — government in Washington is broken. Excessively partisan politics leads to shouting matches and government shutdowns, and little is accomplished. I felt a strong need to act, as I saw the anger and frustration of patriotic Americans seething around me.

Representatives need to truly represent their voters, and that’s what I plan to do as a Republican. The only way to do that is to go back to good old American values. By listening to my constituents, I believe I can change what’s going on in Washington and help to make our country united and strong again. Representatives have forgotten what the word “representative” means. It means to lead the people by listening to the people.

What are the three most important issues to you?

1) Immigration/sanctuary state: Immigration is a federal issue. The states should not be individually involved in immigration policy. The California Values Act of 2017 (Sanctuary State Law) prohibits state and local police from helping federal immigration officials in their enforcement duties. This law should be overturned by the courts or repealed, as necessary. I support the lawsuits filed against California. We should not be a sanctuary state.

2) Health care: We have to look at market-based reforms to fix our healthcare system. We spend too much money on healthcare and receive poor service. To begin, we need to separate health insurance from health care services. Health insurance is designed to spread the risk of poor health before anyone gets sick.

Each of us spends a smaller amount of money on insurance when we are healthy, so that if some of us get sick we can afford the appropriate medical treatment. We are familiar with this in other insurance markets, such as fire insurance on our home, or car insurance in case of an accident. However, people with pre-existing medical conditions are already sick and their care needs to be paid for. This is not an insurance issue any more; it is simply a question of who pays for the necessary medical care. Just like you can’t buy fire insurance after your house has burned down, you shouldn’t be able to buy medical insurance after you get sick.

The only realistic solution is to take people with pre-existing medical conditions out of the insurance pool altogether and pay for their care directly. There are different ways we can do that, but it will surely require some funding from the government. We will not kick people with pre-existing conditions to the curb. By removing pre-existing conditions from the insurance market, medical insurance will become much more affordable.

In addition, if we make medical insurance more of an individual market than a corporate market, then individuals will be able to retain their health insurance even when they change employers or leave their job. We can use the tax laws to encourage the purchase of individual insurance policies that are portable.

3) International relations: One of the most important functions of our federal government is to provide for the security and safety of the citizens of our country. It is important that the United States engage in international relations with allies and perceived enemies alike. We need to negotiate from a place of strength, which means having a strong military to support peace. I support a renegotiation of the Iranian nuclear deal, now that we have strong evidence that the Iranians have continued to develop nuclear technology at their military establishments in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

I will provide the constituents of my district a platform to learn and weigh in on the important issues before Congress. Rather than the Congressperson telling you how they intend to vote on the issues, I will provide information to help my constituents decide how they feel about each issue. I’ve developed a blockchain-based voting system, Voterfied (, in which constituents can log in and anonymously vote on a myriad of topics relevant to congressional legislation.

Danny Casara, Republican

Danny Casara
Danny Casara COURTESY

Danny Casara, 43, is a former U.S. Army sergeant deployed in 2005 to Iraq, where he was severely injured when his tank rolled over a mine that flipped it, killing two others. To date, he has undergone 24 surgeries to repair multiple bone fractures. For his service, Casara was honored with a Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, and the Presidential Unit Citation.The Chicago native served as Fire and Police Commissioner of University Park, Illinois from 2007 to 2009. Since 2012, he, his wife and their son (and Casara’s mother) have lived in the 52nd District, where Casada is currently completing a college degree and serving as a leader in the Rock Church.

Why are you running?

Because I love my country, I see a need, and I believe there should be more patriots elected to serve the people. I desire to continue serving my community and country by wanting to represent the great people of our even greater nation.

What are the three most important issues to you?

Veterans health care and benefits, small businesses and national security.

will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

I will use my ability to communicate and compromise. I plan on building relationships with all of my future colleagues. Any and all issues I would vote on have to line up with the Word of God and the Constitution of the United States of America to get my support.

Jeff Cullen, Republican

Jeff Cullen
Jeff Cullen COURTESY

Dr. Jeffrey Cullen, MD, is a former medical director in the San Diego Veterans Affairs (VA) system who has been active in state and national Republican politics for more than 25 years. He says his experiences as an internist — and, before that, as a civil engineer — give him the expertise to overhaul the country’s health-care system and to champion infrastructure improvements.

While many Republican Congress members want a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Cullen, 63, says there are aspects of former President Obama’s health care law that he supports — such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents health plans until they turn 26 and expanded Medicare coverage.

Cullen, who lives in La Jolla, came to San Diego from Chicago three years ago and worked for a Veterans Affairs clinic in East County. A former civil engineer, he said he changed careers after he realized he gained more satisfaction from his volunteer work at a hospital than his day job at an engineering firm.

Why are you running?

I’m running as a doctor who wishes to improve Health Care and the VA system.

What are the three most important issues to you?

Health care, improving the VA system and improving our infrastructure.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

As a moderate Republican, I will be able to work across the aisle and reduce the gridlock currently experienced.

John Horst, Republican

John Horst

John Horst, 50, is a cybersecurity engineer responsible for maintaining the information system security for major United States Air Force tactical systems. He served two terms on the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group — as secretary for the first five years and chairman for the remaining three. A lifelong San Diego County resident, Horst graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1985. He, his wife and their two boys have lived in Mira Mesa for 25 years.

Why are you running?

In 2009, I joined the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group and became aware of the problems San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) was having with U.S. Fish & Wildlife in obtaining the environmental permits necessary to build Dr. Jonas Salk Elementary School. The project was funded in 1998, and here it was 2009 and the money was sitting in the bank and the lot vacant. I took the matter to then Congressman Brian Bilbray's local staff. I convinced our planning group to formally engage Congressman Bilbray. We were able to arrange an introduction between the Congressman and Dr. Salk's son, Peter, who is a scientist at the Salk Institute.

Brian took the matter to Washington, and by remaining engaged with his office in DC, we were able to get SDUSD officials out to Washington to testify before Congress. Brian ended up writing a two-page bill which would have put a 90-day deadline on Fish & Wildlife. The bill was designed to be a shot across the bow, and worked exactly as intended. Two months after filing the bill, SDUSD announced at our planning group that they had received the needed Incidental take permit. This academic year is the third year Dr. Jonas Salk Elementary School has been teaching our kids in Mira Mesa.

It was when we broke ground in September of 2013, right after Brian lost the seat to the incumbent, that I began thinking about running. Brian was our "fullback." He blocked so SDUSD could push the ball into the end zone. We have not head a fullback in Washington since. I believe we deserve that kind of initiative and leadership in Congress and I intend to bring it.

What are the three most important issues to you?

Nationally, cyber security and data privacy. We need to secure our critical infrastructure and return ownership of data about us or originated by us, to us. Locally, the homelessness crisis demands that we rearrange our local governmental capabilities, even if we have to go to ballot to do so, so that federal money can be focused and effective. Today, federal money is scatter-shot among numerous bureaucracies. Coordination among them depends on the ebb and flow of political will. By creating a Joint Powers Authority here locally, with mental health services and housing services under one roof and with the right mix of authorities, I can then work in DC to direct federal funding in more focused and effective manner.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

Compromise is actually simple: Tell the truth on the front end and follow through on the back end. Today, it is too easy for both the legislature and executive to game economic reporting data to advance their agenda. We need honest economic reports on things like inflation and economic growth. If we can tell the truth on the front end, we can start working together on a way forward - but we have to follow through on the back end for it to be true compromise.

OMAR QUDRAT, Republican

Omar Qudrat
Omar Qudrat COURTESY

Counter-terrorism attorney Omar Qudrat, 36, is the candidate officially endorsed in this race by the Republican Party of San Diego County. Currently a reserve officer in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Qudrat has worked as a civilian prosecutor in the Defense Department on cases against accused terrorists. (According to Qudrat, his office was also involved with the prosecution of the masterminds behind the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and other accused co-conspirators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.)The son of immigrants who came to the United States from Afghanistan in the 70s, Qudrat grew up in Los Angeles with his two older sisters. He graduated from UCLA and has two master’s degrees and a law degree from Syracuse University.

If Quadrat succeeds in ousting Scott Peters, he would become the first Muslim American elected to Congress as a Republican. (Previously, two were elected as Democrats.)

Why are you running?

San Diego has the second-largest homeless veteran population in the country. The state of our veterans is a domestic humanitarian crisis. Scott Peters has failed so miserably on the most urgent issue facing our district. He has done nothing in Congress that has an impact in reality for homeless veterans in San Diego. Talking points, zero results. He hides behind San Diego's mayor and city council on the issue of veteran homelessness and homelessness generally.

Service members are the responsibility of the federal government. Full stop. Our schools are failing another generation of California’s children. Our nation’s enemies are growing bolder and terrorist attacks on our homeland have grown far too frequent. There is a small business exodus out of California, and it hurts the least well off who are dependent on small businesses for jobs. I have the experience and know-how to stop this.

Further, I lived the failed policies that I’m fighting against. My family and I were directly affected by every policy I’m fighting against. After leaving California to attend law school and to serve our nation abroad and at home with the U.S. Department of Defense, I returned home to find my home state much worse off than when I left it. We need effective change now.

What are the three most important issues to you?

1) Homeless veterans: California's and specifically San Diego's veteran homelessness and general homelessness crisis. Fixing the VA and thwarting the burgeoning mental health crisis among our service members.

2) The future of our children. I want to help solve California's failing education system. As a child, I attended schools where many kids were on track for academic failure, and failure in life. California's public schools have been ranked 10th-to-last among our 50 states, earning a grade of C minus.

California's fourth and eighth grade reading and math proficiency have been rated below 30 percent. California ranks 41st of 50 in conditions that help children succeed. I have policies that will bring innovation and technology to lift all of our children and families into economic viability by giving our kids skills that are responsive to today and the future domestic and global markets.

3) National security, counter-terrorism and stopping homeland terrorist attacks.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

I have worked with the executive branch and legislative branch for years. I know the system and I’m already proven at overcoming some of the government’s hardest obstacles. I also have relationships with key members of Congress already. I will have the ability to have my ideas and policies operationalized. I know how to write and interpret laws as well as getting text through the legislative process.

James Veltmeyer, Republican

James Veltmeyer
James Veltmeyer COURTESY

Dr. James Veltmeyer is a board-certified family physician who heads the family health department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. He was voted a Physician of Excellence four times by his professional peers in the San Diego County Medical Society.

Veltmeyer’s accomplishments are all the more impressive considering his background. Born in Ecuador, his family became homeless when his father abandoned his mother and siblings. After six failed bids to obtain a visa, he and his brother were sent to live with an aunt in El Cajon when Veltmeyer was 11. When he was 18, his mother followed and he became the sole provider for his family, working multiple jobs while attending school — including UC San Diego — fulltime.

This is the conservative Republican’s second run for the House. In 2016, he finished a distant second in the 53rd District primary behind Democrat Susan Davis.

Why are you running?

I believe in the dreams and opportunities that this great country stands for. America is the greatest country in the world and we need to preserve this ideology. I was legally brought into the United States from a life of poverty and homelessness and was able to pursue my dream to become a doctor. I came from being a homeless kid on the streets of Ecuador to becoming one of San Diego’s top doctors. Where else in the world can that happen?

I want these opportunities for everyone, especially underprivileged children. I became a doctor to make a difference and be a voice for the people. I believe I'm the right person to represent the families of San Diego.

What are the three most important issues to you?

1) Health care, the issue that will continue to confront Americans everyday as ObamaCare prices continue to skyrocket and the insurance industry continues to profiteer. It’s time we bring back this most personal issue to the people that is why I have developed my own healthcare plan, "Healthcare FOR the people BY the people," where you will again be in control of your health care and at a cost you can afford. As a doctor, I see the ineffectiveness of the current system. As a husband of a cancer patient, I feel this at a personal level. I have created a policy document that has been well-reviewed, proposing specific solutions.

2) Immigration, an issue that San Diego is at the epicenter of. We can no longer kick the can and must take action in comprehensive immigration reform that not only alleviates the financial burden for American citizens but looks at immigration as a humanitarian issue and a matter of national security. Many years ago, I came to America and went through the legal immigration process, but over the years, like many things, Washington bureaucracy has taken over this issue and now we have a crisis on our hands.

Immigration must be addressed in Congress rather than through executive orders. We must come up with a bipartisan plan to secure the borders, while coming up with a plan for the over 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States that is fair and just while being responsible humane leaders for these families that make up part of the diverse American culture.

3) Homelessness is an issue that hits me at my core. As a homeless child on the streets of Ecuador, I have primary knowledge of this issue. Homelessness is no longer a regional or local issue but an epidemic crisis we are facing throughout America. Congress must act to provide the opportunity that I was afforded. I overcame poverty and homelessness and understand what it would take to improve these problems firsthand. I am committed to developing solutions to enable people to help themselves.

What will you do to alleviate deadlock and change the way the political system currently works?

The deadlock in Washington has been embarrassing and longstanding essentially since 9/11. As a doctor, I don't care for my patients differently due to gender, race or political affiliation. I take care of all of my patients everyday equally. I would take this same mentality to Washington and would look forward to working with my colleagues that are both Republican and Democrat alike.

We must reach across the aisle and come up with real solutions for real problems that would require the real leadership I can provide as a doctor. I'm serving my 6th year as the Chief of the Family Medicine department at a local hospital where I provide leadership of over 200 doctors. Convincing doctors to work together is a difficult task. I plan on applying my skills of finding solutions and building consensus to Congress, in order to cross party lines and focus on what is most important: the people.

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