Outside Federal Court in downtown San Diego, Calif. Congressman Duncan Hunter along with his attorney, Paul Pfingst spoke with news reporters briefly about his guilty plea in Federal Court on Dec. 3, 2019 before leaving.

Outside Federal Court in downtown San Diego, Calif. Congressman Duncan Hunter along with his attorney, Paul Pfingst spoke with news reporters briefly about his guilty plea in Federal Court on Dec. 3, 2019 before leaving. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

SAN DIEGO - Rep. Duncan Hunter, the lone Republican in San Diego's congressional delegation, officially left office Monday after he pleaded guilty to a felony involving illegal campaign spending early last month.

The Alpine Republican, who followed his father into politics, had represented the 50th Congressional District - which includes large parts of East County, inland North County and a portion of south Riverside County - since January 2009.

The seat will remain vacant until a new Congress is sworn in in January 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that he will not call a special election because of the timing of Hunter's resignation.

Hunter's offices will remain open under the administration of the nonpartisan clerk of the House. All staff, in Washington and locally, will work on constituent services and not on policy or political issues, said Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison.

Their salaries will continue to come from the annual House budget.

"It has been an honor to serve the people of California's 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years," Hunter said in a resignation letter he delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Newsom last week.

Hunter's letter made no mention of the reason for his resignation, instead offering a list of his accomplishments during his six terms in Congress and in his military service as a Marine.

Hunter, 43, was indicted in August 2018 on 60 federal counts based on accusations he and his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, stole $250,000 of campaign funds, using it for family vacations, groceries, his extramarital affairs and other noncampaign uses, including airfare for a pet rabbit.

He ultimately reached a deal and pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to a single count of conspiracy to convert campaign funds to personal use, a felony for which he could be sentenced up to five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 17.

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