Retired Republican Representative Duncan L. Hunter wore a charcoal gray pinstripe suit to the federal courthouse Dec. 3.
Sitting slightly hunched over behind his son’s slim frame in U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan’s courtroom, he watched quietly as his son, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, changed his plea to guilty of conspiracy to convert campaign funds for personal use. And with that, the 42-year-old son effectively ended his family’s legacy in Congress.
Hunter took the reins from his father in 2008 after serving with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan, winning the seat that his father had held since 1980.
Since the Dec. 3 hearing, Alpine residents have exhibited a mixed response to Hunter’s admission of guilt, with some taking note of the effect on the Hunter patriarch.
“I don’t know enough about it but I guess it is a good thing he is pleading guilty since he stole all that money. It has to be tough for his dad,” said Shawna Gosek
Alpine Motorsports and Equipment Repair owner Kristopher Wyrick said that he still believes the congressman is a good person.
“We’re not best buddies or anything but I’ve been to their house, hung out with him — he’s not a bad guy and I’m still going to support him,” Wyrick said.
He says that Hunter stepped in and personally helped when Wyrick and his wife tried to obtain dental services for a retired U.S. Navy master chief who was having difficulty navigating the system.
“This guy had served his country and deserved care, Hunter was someone we could go to for help right here in the community,” Wyrick said.
Wyrick says he recognizes Hunter broke the law but he is less concerned with how the Congressman spent campaign dollars than he is worried about the upcoming 2020 election and the possibility that a Democrat could flip the 50th district seat to blue.
“I want a firebrand like an A.O.C., but Republican. We need to hang on to this seat, we can’t become blue. We need someone outspoken, Issa’s not going to do that, neither is Jones,” Wyrick said.
He went on to say that the opportunity is there for Hunter’s family to pull together and focus on restoring their lives together.
“I hope this gives him a chance to make things better for his family. I feel for the guy, I do,” Wyrick said.
Philly Christman said that the holiday season makes everyone more compassionate and thinks the Dec. 3 hearing was good timing and will benefit the family in the long run.
“It all comes down to honesty. A lot of people are upset it took so long but with people focused on the holidays, well, people come together at this time of year and we have such a wonderful community. Maybe Hunter and his family can pull some good out of what happened,” Christman said.
Others were less supportive.
Jammy Elizabeth Foultz who responded to a request for public response to the hearing from The Alpine Sun wrote:
“He’s a liar, a thief and a cheater. Lock him up!”
Resident Veronica Kenny was equally straightforward:
“I’m all for whatever happens to him. He deserves it,” she said.
Hunter was told by the Congressional House Ethics Committee he should no longer vote on legislative matters. He later announced he would resign his seat in Congress after the holidays.
Hunter is set to be sentenced in March.