Congressman Backs Ex-Hill Staffer for California Seat

Royce endorsed a former Capitol Hill staffer on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce has endorsed former Capitol Hill aide Lesli Gooch, becoming the latest Southern California congressman to back the Republican seeking her former boss' open House seat.  

Gooch, one of several candidates vying for the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Gary G. Miller in California's 31st District, worked for Miller as a senior policy adviser in the district, which is a top Democratic pick-up opportunity in November. Royce's endorsement follows that of Miller and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.  

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lesli Gooch and our delegation in the United States Congress to get things done for Californians," Royce said in a statement Friday. "The Inland Empire needs Lesli Gooch’s strong conservative leadership in Congress to beat back the failed policies of Reid and Pelosi that are hurting our economy and crippling our national security."  

Beyond an endorsement, Miller has donated a total of $14,000 to Gooch's campaign from his leadership PAC and congressional campaign account, according to fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.  

Gooch faces a two other Republicans and four Democrats in a June 3 top-two primary. The two highest vote recipients, regardless of party, will advance to the general.  

According to recent polling , Republican businessman Paul Chabot led the field with 23 percent. He was followed by three Democrats in the field: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, in second with 15 percent, and former Rep. Joe Baca and attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, who are tied for third with 13 percent.  

Gooch currently is far behind with 6 percent. But according to a Democratic polling memo, Gooch has yet to use her money to communicate with voters and could see a jump in her numbers once she begins to spend.  

California’s 31st District is rated Lean Democratic by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. President Barack Obama carried the district with 57 percent in 2012.