GOP Rep. Darrell Issa says he will not seek re-election - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa says he will not seek re-election

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VISTA (CNS) - Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents coastal areas of San Diego County and part of Orange County, announced Wednesday 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. "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.

Issa, 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.

He took at least partial credit for several developments, including the recall of 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 spokesman Drew Godinich said. "After passing a devastating tax scam and fighting to rip away health care 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."

Jessica Hayes, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, credited activists who have targeted Issa for helping to push him out of the seat.

"This is a day to celebrate the end of a political career built on abuse of power and contempt for the needs of constituents," Hayes said. "Despite Issa's many attempts to kill President (Barack) Obama's legacy of health-care expansion, the Affordable Care Act has proven to outlast him. For so many reasons, the people of the 49th will be much better off when he's gone."

Four Democrats, including Applegate, have already announced they will run for Issa's seat.

"This is an historic opportunity for the voters of San Diego and Orange Counties," Applegate said. "If you want more political insiders and establishment politicians, you've got plenty of options in this race. But if you want new leadership and new ideas, it's time to send a Marine colonel to Congress."

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 also started bids for the seat.

On the Republican side, Diane Harkey, chair of the state Board of Equalization and a former Assemblywoman, said she will run for the seat and has the backing of Issa and Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine.

"The state of California is extremely misunderstood across the country," Harkey said. "States across the nation don't like us and I hope to put a better face on that -- to let everyone know how important we are to the overall economy."

Republican San Marcos patent attorney Joshua Schoonover also announced his intention to seek the post.

Issa is the second congressional Republican from Southern California to bow out of a reelection bid this week. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, announced Monday that he would not be looking to keep his seat.

State Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel said the protests probably took their toll on Issa.

"He became the issue with 200 to 300 people showing up to his office every week," Steel said. "I think Darrell got tired, physically and mentally."

Orange County GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker told CNS he thinks Issa could have won by a larger margin this year because he has been holding more town halls and has been more engaged in the district. Royce could have won re- election as well, but Issa's seat would have been tougher to defend, Whitaker said.

Steel said Democrats run the risk of having too many candidates in the race, allowing for two Republicans to make the runoff in both districts.

"That would be perfect karmic justice," Steel said. "They created it so they have to live with it."

Godinich acknowledged the danger to Democrats, but said it cuts both ways with multiple Republican candidates jumping into races as well. Godinich said it was a good problem to have, since the party struggled in the past to field any candidates in some districts that were considered safely Republican.

Party officials may intervene and try to persuade some candidates to drop out if polling shows a danger of not getting a Democrat into a runoff, Godinich said.

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