Reps. Gary Miller and David Dreier face unlikely odds of winning re-election thanks to their state’s new Congressional map.
But the California Republicans are coping in different ways, with Miller quietly making preparations for a tough campaign while Dreier’s campaign lays dormant as he waits on a long-shot lawsuit.
Miller is locked in a Member-vs.-Member primary against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce, and Dreier, whose territory was practically obliterated by the redistricting process, hasn’t yet signaled whether he’ll seek re-election, or where.
Both turned in paltry third-quarter fundraising numbers. Miller raised $58,000 and Dreier brought in $44,000 — amounts low enough to draw the inquisitive eyes of political vultures.
Miller told Roll Call he is “absolutely” running, and sources said he has privately assured his allies he is in the race while gauging support for his intraparty clash against a colleague among local officials. Miller hired a new consulting firm, Revolvis Consulting, to replace a longtime friend, Tim Carey, who guided Miller’s political ship during less trying times.
But Dreier’s political team is waiting on the resolution of a long-shot lawsuit against the new map led by former California Rep. George Radanovich (R). He took the matter to federal district court after the state Supreme Court threw out the case.
“There’s a new federal court case just filed this week. And that will play a big role in making the determination, won’t it? It depends on the lines,” Dreier told Roll Call when asked if he will seek re-election.
Is Dreier optimistic the lawsuit will succeed, forcing the lines to be redrawn? “Sure, sure,” he said.
He maintains that with $774,000 in the bank, he’ll have plenty of money to be competitive when the time comes. And he pointed out that he’s helped raise $500,000 for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Dreier’s Federal Election Commission filing reveals that longtime campaign manager Julie Vallante is no longer working on his campaign. She had been on the payroll since at least 2006.
Dreier spokeswoman Jo Maney said Vallante recently moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband, Mike Vallante, when he was hired by the Republican National Committee. But Maney did not reply to a question about whether Dreier plans to name a replacement.
Dreier’s lackluster fundraising is truly “astonishing,” one prominent consultant said. “He can raise that much in a single event,” the source said.
One remaining domino is Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, who is deciding whether to run in a more competitive district in the San Bernardino Valley or a solidly Republican district in nearby Mono and Inyo counties.
Rumors have swirled for months that Lewis could retire, paving the way for Dreier to move and run in Lewis’ place because his own district was drawn to be more friendly to Democrats. But conventional wisdom among California political insiders has hardened against the idea, given the district’s solid Republican makeup.
The district “favors homegrown candidates,” particularly those with very conservative stances on hot button issues such as immigration, a GOP aide familiar with the area said. Dreier does not fit the profile.
Lewis is leaning toward a run in the slightly Democratic San Bernardino Valley district because his house and most of his friends are there, sources said.
Miller, meanwhile, has his hands full in the race against Royce. Royce has a huge $3 million war chest and a leg up on claiming the mantle of being more conservative.
Besides his anemic fundraising, California political blogs have criticized Miller for being missing in action at events in the district. His absence was due to extenuating circumstances: He’s been busy rescuing his kidnapped grandchildren from Mexico, where their mother, who has since been arrested by Mexican authorities, was hiding them from their father, Miller’s son. But that hasn’t stopped bloggers from going after him.
“While Royce has been his usual Energizer-Bunny self, racking up endorsements and holding high profile events, Miller’s side of things has been dead silent, causing many to question whether Miller is actually going to run at all,” Jon Fleischman wrote on Oct. 13 on the influential FlashReport blog.
Miller told Roll Call the kidnapping saga is one reason his fundraising lagged.
“You realize I just got my three grandkids back that were abducted for almost four years, and they’re living with me?” Miller said. “It’s a job taking care of three young guys. ... That’s a lot of work.”
Miller does have more than $1 million in cash on hand. And he is the 17th richest Member of Congress, with a net worth of at least $17.4 million. Miller wouldn’t say how much of his own money he’d put into his campaign coffers, but he told Roll Call, “Money’s not gonna be a problem in this race.”
“There’ll be [a] more than adequate amount of money to run my campaign, so I’m not concerned about that,” Miller said.
He suggested his path to victory is through Democrats, citing the state’s new “jungle primary” rules in which the top two vote-getters from any party advance to a runoff general election.
Miller noted that the new territory includes more of his current district than of Royce’s district and predicted that he and Royce would split the GOP vote and both advance to the general. But Miller said he believes independents and Democrats would give him an advantage in the general election runoff.
“It’s a different campaign in California then you’ve ever had before,” Miller said.
Royce declined an interview request through a spokeswoman. Royce consultant Dave Gilliard said the California Republican “has proven he can attract crossover votes from independents and Democrats” because he used to represent Democratic-majority districts during his days in the state Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.