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Political dominoes toppled across California last week, with three Republican retirement announcements, one district switch and an influx of rising stars to the Congressional landscape.
Rep. Elton Gallegly announced his retirement on an early January Saturday morning. That was followed three days later by the retirement of Northern California Rep. Wally Herger. Rep. Jerry Lewis, a former chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced his retirement Thursday, which led Rep. Gary Miller (R) to run for Lewis’ seat.
The three exits highlighted the leading causes of turnover for the delegation in the upcoming election — redistricting and age — and ensured that at least nine California Members elected in 2010 won’t be returning in 2013.
Democratic Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Cardoza are retiring; Rep. Bob Filner (D) is running for San Diego mayor; former Rep. Jane Harman (D) resigned in February; and two Democrats will not emerge from the state’s two Member-vs.-Member races.
Democrats are expected to gain at least a couple of seats, but with more competitive districts this year than the state had over five election cycles in the past decade, estimates range widely from one to six.
The state’s political upheaval was caused by a new independent redistricting process that eliminated the goal of incumbent protection sought in decades past by the state Legislature, which had been charged with drawing the lines until last year. The new process opened the door for new blood in the delegation and additional opportunities for Latinos.
Gallegly’s retirement ensured Rep. Buck McKeon would not face a fellow Republican, though Gallegly could have run in the new Ventura County-based 26th district as well. Lewis’ retirement allowed Republicans to avoid a more likely Member-vs.-Member race in Orange County.
Miller waited only two hours to announce he would run in Lewis’ San Bernardino-based 31st district instead of against Rep. Ed Royce, whom insiders viewed as the favorite for the solidly Republican 39th district.
“The Lewis decision to retire greatly simplifies things for us in California and bolsters our chances dramatically,” California GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro said. “What would’ve been a knock-down, drag-out between two well-financed incumbents not only would have bloodied them, but takes resources away from other races.”