Updated: Issa will not run for re-election

Updated: Issa will not run for re-election
Rep. Darrell Issa speaks at a town hall event in Oceanside in March 2017. Issa announced Jan. 10 that he will not seek re-election this year. Photo by Pat Cubel

REGION — Nine-term Congressman Darrell Issa announced Jan. 10 that he will not seek re-election in November, sending shock waves throughout Southern California and both political parties.

Issa, widely considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the upcoming midterm elections, said in a statement that he came to the decision not to run with the support of his family, but did not give a reason as to why he decided not to run.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” Issa said in a statement. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”

Issa becomes the second longtime California Republican congressman to announce that he would retire from the House of Representatives. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda) announced two days before Issa that he would not seek a 12th term in office.

Reaction to Issa’s retirement was split along partisan lines, as Republicans praised him as a political force who wielded his influence for the good of the district, while Democrats derided him for his voting record, which was virtually in lock step with President Donald Trump.

“On the governance side … behind the scenes and helping out the city of Oceanside, Darrell was great,” said Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, a prominent local Republican. “It is amazing to be in a meeting with Darrell and see his breadth of knowledge on so many issues. I will miss him and his ability to get things done for us in Washington, and I am rather apprehensive of having someone else go in and handle that learning curve.”

The announcement gave way to an impromptu celebration outside of Issa’s Vista District office, as hundreds of people who had protested outside of Issa’s office over the past year congregated to commemorate the announcement. 

“Today we celebrate,” said Ellen Montanari, one of the chief organizers of the protests, which have occurred every Tuesday for nearly a year. “Tomorrow we strategize, but today we celebrate.”

“It’s like Christmas time for me,” said Allison Stratton, who belongs to Indivisible 49, one of the driving forces behind the protests. “Since we started, we never thought Issa would retire, and there was no indication that he would, so this announcement came as a total surprise. We feel our weekly presence has played a role in his decision to retire because it shows him that he is out of step with his constituents.”

Until Wednesday’s announcement, Issa had not given any indication that he would not run again for office, and had $852,000 cash on hand for the 2018 race, more than any of his Democratic challengers, according to Federal Elections Commission filings. 

Issa most recently had voted against the Republican tax reform bill that Trump signed into law, and also criticized the administration for its decision to open up federally controlled waters to offshore oil exploration and drilling. 

Issa’s Democratic challengers pounced on his announcement, declaring that the congressman had seen “the writing on the wall” and that his support of President Donald Trump had weakened his standing in the district.

“Another one bites the dust. The tsunami warnings of a blue wave are being heard in California,” said Doug Linney, campaign manager for Flip the 14, a group aiming to defeat California’s 14 Republican congressional representatives.

“Congressmen Darrell Issa and Ed Royce like to present a moderate face for the cameras, but like every other Congressional Republican in California, their votes repeatedly and dramatically harm their constituents and our state. And they refuse to do anything about Trump’s flagrant disregard for democratic norms and basic human decency.

“In California, the Resistance is fired up and voters are paying attention,” Linney said.

Issa’s announcement will also set off a whirlwind search by Republicans to find a viable candidate before the March 9 filing deadline.

Shortly after noon Jan. 10, California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) became the first Republican to announce candidacy for the seat. 

“It’s time we come together and focus on progress, not partisan politics and gridlock,” Chavez said. “We need to celebrate what unites us, not what divides us. This has guided my work in the State Assembly, and it will guide my work in Congress, where I’ll work for solutions that benefit us all as Americans — a strong economy, a strong military, rebuilding our infrastructure and protecting public safety and national security.”

Other officials whose names have been linked to the congressional race include former State Assemblywoman and current Board of Equalization Chair Diane Harkey, State Sen. Patricia Bates, former Assemblyman Scott Baugh and former congressional candidate Denise Gitsham.

Considered one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Issa co-founded and served as CEO of Directed Electronics, one of the largest makers of automobile aftermarket security and convenience products in the country. He first came to political prominence after an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1998, but voters elected him in 2000 to the 48th Congressional District seat vacated by longtime Republican Ron Packard.

Issa was a regular on cable talk shows when he chaired the House Oversight House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011 to 2015. He was a vocal critic of the Obama administration and led the investigation of the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi until GOP leaders decided to create a special committee to handle that probe.

Issa was also a prominent figure in the successful recall of former California Gov. Gray Davis, contributing $1.6 million of his own money to the signature gathering campaign to place the recall on the ballot. He announced he wouldn’t seek the governor’s seat shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ultimately won the 2003 election, announced he would run.

After congressional redistricting, Issa’s district was renumbered as the 49th District, and he dominated his re-election bids until 2016, when he narrowly survived a challenge from former Marine Col. Doug Applegate by a margin of less than 1,300 votes, or 0.6 percent.

Changes to the district lines have changed the overall lean of the 49th District from one that was strongly Republican to one that is closer to even, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

In 2016, the 49th District voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, which posed further issues for Issa during a potential re-election bid, experts said. 

Applegate announced shortly after his defeat that he would challenge Issa again, and since then three other prominent Democratic challengers have emerged to campaign for the seat, Orange County environmental attorney Mike Levin; Sara Jacobs, granddaughter of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and foreign policy adviser on Hillary Clinton’s campaign; and Rancho Santa Fe businessman Paul Kerr.

All four Democrats issued statements regarding Issa’s announcement.

“I think Darrell Issa realized what these activists had been telling him the past year every Tuesday that he no longer represents the values of this district,” Jacobs said at the rally. “But it’s important to remember this race isn’t about one person, it is about Southern California families having a representative who shares their values and will stand up to Donald Trump … every day.”

“As much as I was looking forward to running one-on-one against Darrell Issa later this year, it’s best for the residents of the 49th that he leave sooner rather than later,” Levin said in his statement. “With Donald Trump in the White House and a lap-dog Congress that refuses to hold him accountable, we face an unprecedented crisis. That doesn’t change just because Darrell Issa is retiring. It is critical that Democrats retake the House to uphold our values, our families, and our democracy, and I look forward to bringing this seat home for the democrats.”

Kerr echoed Levin’s sentiments regarding the election.

“Darrell Issa saw the writing on the wall,” Kerr said in his statement. “For the past year, Republicans have focused on stripping health care from millions of people and giving tax breaks to large corporations and the rich, all at the expense of hard working Americans. In fact, the tax proposal was so bad that even Issa couldn’t vote for it. Americans are saying, enough is enough.”

Applegate, who spoke before a large rally outside of Issa’s Vista district office, said that Issa “didn’t want a rematch.”

“I think that his own internal polling showed that he wasn’t going to be able to win, and that is why he’s retiring,” Applegate said. 

Applegate said that he hoped the Democratic Party would endorse one of the challengers in the next 60 days so that the party could mount its best challenge for the now open seat. 

“I think they need to endorse within the next 60 days or there is a serious risk that a Republican will still be sitting in the congressional seat for the California 49th,” Applegate said. 

UC San Diego political science professor Thaddeus Kousser said that Issa and Boyce’s retirements are likely the result of the perception and expectation of a Democratic surge in 2018.

“This is what happens when everyone thinks it is going to be a bad year for their party … the expectation creates this self-fulfilling prophecy where all these threatened Republicans are retiring, and every strong Democratic candidate decides this is their year to take their shots.” Kousser said. “Even if the (outlook) changes and 2018 is not a bad year for Republicans, the way the lineups have changed this winter, that alone can change the shape of the course of the midterms.”

Kousser said that Democrats should move quickly to coalesce behind a candidate to avoid a protracted — and potentially fractious — primary, similar to the 2016 presidential race. 

“The only way Democrats can screw this up is if they have a rerun of the 2016 civil war between Bernie (Sanders) and Hillary (Clinton). In a district that still leans Republican, this means a Rocky Chavez could still have a chance.”

Democratic strategists at Wednesday’s rally said that despite the number of candidates, they fully expected to support whichever candidate emerged from the primary election. 

“Our focus has been to remove Issa, and now that he is gone, it is making sure that we have a Democratic voice in the 49th seat,” Stratton said. “We will back whoever wins the primary.”

Earlier

Updated 11:16 a.m. JAN 10. | Nine-term Congressman Darrell Issa announced Jan. 10 that he will not seek re-election in November, sending shock waves throughout Southern California and both political parties.

Issa, widely considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the upcoming midterm elections, said in a statement that he came to the decision not to run with the support of his family, but did not give a reason as to why he decided not to run.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” Issa said in a statement. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”

Issa becomes the second longtime California Republican congressman to announce that he would retire from the House of Representatives. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda) announced two days before Issa that he would not seek a 12th term in office.

Issa’s Democratic challengers pounced on his announcement, declaring that the congressman had seen “the writing on the wall” and that his support of President Donald Trump had weakened his standing in the district.

“Another one bites the dust. The tsunami warnings of a blue wave are being heard in California,” said Doug Linney, campaign manager for Flip the 14, a group aimed at defeating California’s 14 Republican congressional representatives.

“Congressmen Darrell Issa and Ed Royce like to present a moderate face for the cameras, but like every other Congressional Republican in California, their votes repeatedly and dramatically harm their constituents and our state. And they refuse to do anything about Trump’s flagrant disregard for democratic norms and basic human decency.

“In California, the Resistance is fired up and voters are paying attention,” Linney said.

Issa’s announcement will also set off a whirlwind search by Republicans to find a viable candidate before the March 9 filing deadline.

Considered one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Issa co-founded and served as CEO of Directed Electronics, one of the largest makers of automobile aftermarket security and convenience products in the country. He first came to political prominence after an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 1998, but voters elected him in 2000 to the 48th Congressional District seat vacated by longtime Republican Ron Packard.

Issa was also a prominent figure in the successful recall of former California Gov. Gray Davis, contributing $1.6 million of his own money to the signature gathering campaign to place the recall on the ballot. He announced he wouldn’t seek the governor’s seat shortly after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ultimately won the 2003 election, announced he would run.

After congressional redistricting, Issa’s district was renumbered as the 49th District, and he dominated his re-election bids until 2016, when he narrowly survived a challenge from former Marine Col. Doug Applegate by a margin of less than 1,300 votes, or 0.6 percent.

Applegate announced shortly after his defeat that he would challenge Issa again, and since then two other prominent Democratic challengers have emerged to campaign for the seat, Orange County environmental attorney Mike Levin and Rancho Santa Fe businessman Paul Kerr.

All three Democrats issued statements regarding Issa’s announcement.

“As much as I was looking forward to running one-on-one against Darrell Issa later this year, it’s best for the residents of the 49th that he leave sooner rather than later,” Levin said in his statement. “With Donald Trump in the White House and a lap-dog Congress that refuses to hold him accountable, we face an unprecedented crisis. That doesn’t change just because Darrell Issa is retiring. It is critical that Democrats retake the House to uphold our values, our families, and our democracy, and I look forward to bringing this seat home for the democrats.”

Kerr echoed Levin’s sentiments regarding the election.

“Darrell Issa saw the writing on the wall,” Kerr said in his statement. “For the past year, Republicans have focused on stripping health care from millions of people and giving tax breaks to large corporations and the rich, all at the expense of hard working Americans. In fact, the tax proposal was so bad that even Issa couldn’t vote for it. Americans are saying, enough is enough.”

Applegate is scheduled to speak outside of Issa’s district office in Vista. The Coast News will update the story with his remarks.

Updated 9:40 a.m. Jan. 10 | VISTA — Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents coastal areas of San Diego County and part of Orange County, announced Jan. 10 that he will not seek re-election to Congress, where he has served 18 years.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” he said in a statement issued in Washington, D.C. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.

“I am forever grateful to the people of San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties for their support and affording me the honor of serving them all these years,” he said, adding he is especially humbled to have represented the residents of the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton.

The 64-year-old, nine-term congressman did not immediately say why he won’t run for Congress later this year or what he plans to do next.

The former chairman of the House Oversight Committee narrowly won re-election in 2016 — by just 0.6 percentage points against Democrat Doug Applegate — and was widely considered the most vulnerable incumbent in the House going into the 2018 election. The richest man in Congress, he has already drawn a handful of well funded opponents.

The Army veteran and businessman has also faced weekly protests over the past year, with roughly 300 people gathering each week — and sometimes more than double that number — outside his Vista office. The protests have sometimes been general and other times targeted specific decisions or issues like health care or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

”While my service to California’s 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me…,” he said in his statement, in which he took at least partial credit for several developments, including the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis, ”an end to abusive Congressional earmarks,” the strengthening of the Violence against Women Act, and strengthening standards for government accountability.

Officials from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee immediately released a statement cheering Issa’s decision as a victory for California’s 49th District and the country as a whole.

“The Republican agenda in Washington has been a direct attack on Californians,” DCCC spokesperson Drew Godinich said in a statement. “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.”

Four Democrats, including Applegate, have already announced they will run for Issa’s seat. Orange County environmental attorney Mike Levin, San Diego real estate investor Paul Kerr and Sara Jacobs, a former State Department employee under President Barack Obama, have all launched bids for the seat. It wasn’t immediately clear who might run as a Republican.

— City News Service

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Oside Concerned 10 months ago

    Good riddance! Just as he finishes helping to dismantle net neutrality, he’ll be on to his next venture creating security systems for Verizon, ATT, Comcast, COX etc.

    Apparently the majority population likes voting in wealthy business men/women that do nothing for the public good. Ask yourself… why does it take $10M-20M to run for office? SHORT ANSWER: Capitalism owns our government.

    You don’t have to be smart to be rich… any selfish jerk will do.

  2. Don 10 months ago

    Please don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out. No doubt Issa is now set for life with all the perks that come with being an ex-Congressman. Next stop? Probably Fox News.

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