San Diego-area Congressman Darrell Issa will not run for reelection this year, the second California Republican to announce his retirement this week. Fellow veteran Southern California lawmaker Ed Royce, of Orange County, revealed Monday he, too, will leave Congress after 2018.
But Issa may still be on the ballot in 2018. A spokesman suggested he could run for statewide office in California. “He’s not ruling out anything and looks forward to staying engaged in politics as he moves into this new chapter,” said Calvin Moore in an email.
The departures buoy Democrats’ hopes of winning control of the House of Representatives from Republicans in November, a feat that by most accounts will require flipping several California seats. The party hopes the anti-Trump fervor will fuel Democratic turnout in GOP-held districts that have been trending their direction in recent years.
In a statement, Issa said that “with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”
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“I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me, advancing public policy where I believe I can make a true and lasting difference.”
Issa did not give a reason for his decision not to pursue a tenth term, but it likely had something to do with the daunting reelection challenge before him. After winning reelection by less than 2,000 votes in 2016, a number of political handicappers considered him one of the most vulnerable House incumbents in the country.
Issa’s 2016 opponent, retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate is running again in 2018, as are several other competitive Democratic candidates. The 49th congressional district, which stretches along the coast from San Clemente in Orange County to Del Mar just north of San Diego, has seen its Republican majority disappear in recent years. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district by 7 percentage points in 2016.
Democrats and liberal outside groups have been targeting Issa, Royce and five other California Republicans representing congressional districts that Clinton won. On Monday, California billionaire Tom Steyer announced he is putting $30 million behind a grassroots effort to oust House Republicans. He singled out Issa by name.
“This week, we got our first wins with Darell Issa and Ed Royce stepping down rather than face crushing defeat in November,” Steyer said in a release Wednesday. “Steve Knight, Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, David Valadao, Dana Rohrabacher — are you next?” He asked, a nod to the other Republican lawmakers in districts that voted for Clinton.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats to the House, blamed GOP policies coming out of Washington for Republicans’ vulnerabilities in the Golden State. “After passing a devastating tax scam and fighting to rip away healthcare from millions of families, California Republicans clearly see the writing on the wall and realize that their party and its priorities are toxic to their re-election chances in 2018,” spokesman Drew Godinich said in a release.
Republicans, meanwhile, expressed confidence they could hold onto Issa’s seat, not least because of the crowded field of Democrats. “In the 49th district, Democrats are locked in what is fast becoming one of the bloodiest primaries in America,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “While Democrats fight with each other, Republicans will focus on fighting Democrats – and that’s how we plan to win.”