IE Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar, GOP Challenger Sean Flynn Fight For The Center

Oct 30, 2018

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands, left, Democratic candidate in the 31st Congressional District and Sean Flynn, right, Republican candidate in the 31st Congressional District
Credit San Bernardino Sun staff and courtesy photos

Two-term Inland Empire incumbent Congressman Pete Aguilar is in a close race with challenger Sean Flynn, who boasts he is a moderate Republican and says he would vote to impeach President Trump.  But is Aguilar's 31st Congressional District seat really in trouble?  KVCR's Benjamin Purper spoke to both candidates, and has this report.

In the June primary, Republican Sean Flynn came within a thousand votes of incumbent Democrat Pete Aguilar. Aguilar is a well-liked, two-term incumbent – so why was it so close?

Aguilar says it’s partly because another Democrat, Kaiser Ahmed, took some of the Democratic vote.

“The reality was, it was another Democrat who took 8, 9 percent of the vote, registered Democrat. So that's going to impact those numbers."

But Aguilar says he also expects a different turn-out in the general election.

“Another point is also, in our region, the number of people who vote in a primary is dramatically different than the number of people who vote in a general election. So as that number expands, that's where we have the opportunity to make our case to Inland Empire residents and families that we believe in policies that will move this region forward. And so we look forward to making that case now, that's why we're getting out, people are seeing more of us. And we're going to continue to communicate about the priorities that I've learned in four generations of living here, the Aguilar family has stood for, and so we're going to continue to make those priorities very public and very vocal.”

But Sean Flynn is hoping to catch those voters who didn’t vote in the primary too – even if they’re Democrats. I asked him if he thought his success in the primary would carry over to the general. 

I do, just because, if you look at the voter registration in this district, it’s D+8, D+10. But we, in this district, compared to the rest of California, we have a different breed of Democrat. Our democrats here are not sort of West Side progressives. Their issues are very core things, like good schools, good jobs. They’re sort of old-school Reagan Democrats is one way to call them. Union Democrats. Labor Democrats. They’re not interested in many of the social progressive issues. So it’s a place where a Republican doesn’t have a scarlet letter written on their chest. It’s a place where people are open to saying, here’s a centrist Republican like Sean. His issues are good schools, good healthcare, jobs, growth, opportunity. Those are very bipartisan things.”

Flynn’s focus on winning over Democratic voters sets him apart from other Republicans running for Congress across the nation. But Flynn also differs from many Republicans in another important way – he says he would vote to impeach President Trump if necessary.

“People also ask me, will you vote to impeach President Trump? And I say, yes. I’m going to be sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States of America. And part of that is, the House of Representatives has the duty, if they see high crimes and misdemeanors, to vote to impeach. Which is like an indictment in a court system. And the Senate gets to run the trial. So, yes. I don’t care who the president is. If there’s high crimes and misdemeanors, absolutely. And whoever the next president is, I would have to hold them to the same high standard. So as a general matter: yes. Willing to oppose the president.”

Jeff Horseman is a reporter at the Press-Enterprise who’s been following the race. I asked him – is Pete Aguilar really in trouble?

“My best educated guess is no. I realize that Sean Flynn had a better than expected showing in a primary, he finished a few thousand votes behind Pete Aguilar, and he's raised about a million dollars compared to 2 and a half million for Pete Aguilar which is impressive for a GOP challenger. But if I had to guess I think that the effect of the blue wave is really what's going to carry the day here, 538 gives Aguilar a 99.8 chance of winning, which is pretty good. The districts in terms of voter registration is D+14 and Hillary won it by about 21 percentage points in 2016. So again, better than expected showing in the primary but I don't think it carries over to the general.”

Flynn and Aguilar will face off on November 6th.