REGION — The race for the now-open 49th Congressional seat has become crowded in a hurry following last week’s announcement that Darrell Issa would not seek re-election.
Following the announcement that Assemblyman Rocky Chávez would enter the race against a field of four Democrats vying for the now-open seat, State Board of Equalization board member Diane Harkey, patent attorney Joshua Schoonover and San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Brian Maryott have announced their candidacies.
Harkey, 56, previously served as a state assemblywoman and her district at one time included portions of South Orange County and North San Diego County, much like the 49th Congressional District.
“I’m running for Congress because I’ve seen firsthand the need to reform the way government works and more important, the way it thinks,” Harkey said on her website, HarkeyforCongress.com.
“As your elected member of the State Board of Equalization, I’ve worked with Taxpayers from all walks of life and I’m dedicated to making sure every citizen is treated fairly by government.”
According to news reports, Harkey has the support of the outgoing Issa and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), which would position her to be the Republican favorite entering the June primary season.
Maryott, who was elected to the South Orange County city’s council in 2016, is aligning his campaign with President Donald Trump, arguing that Congress needs to do more to support the president.
“I think it’s important for our party and our Congress, whose No. 1 job is the defense of the American people and the safety of the American people, to get behind him,” Maryott told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Maryott paid for his council campaign, but said he will raise money for the current race and will spend more than $100,000 of his own money.
Four Democrats have been actively campaigning for months for the seat, originally seeking a likely November battle against Issa: former Marine Col. Doug Applegate, Orange County environmental attorney Mike Levin, Rancho Santa Fe businessman Paul Kerr and San Diego former nonprofit director Sara Jacobs.
Applegate nearly defeated Issa in 2016, but the nine-term congressman prevailed by 1,300 votes — or 0.6 percent — in the tightest congressional race in the 2016 campaign. As a result, many Democratic strategists and pundits labeled Issa as one of the most vulnerable incumbents during the midterm election cycle.
Issa shocked both parties and political insiders when he announced Jan. 10 that he would not seek a 10th term in office and would retire after the election.
There is speculation that Issa has left the door open for a congressional run in the 50th District, where embattled Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) is facing investigations into misuse of his campaign funds. Hunter, however, announced last week that he would seek re-election.