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New Seat, Better Odds for California Republican (Video)

The candidate: Former state Sen. Tony Strickland, a Republican The member: Longtime GOP Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon is retiring from Congress, leaving his competitively drawn southern California House seat open for the first time in two decades. The district: California's 25th, located on the northern edge Los Angeles County, was close in the past two presidential contests but has a slight conservative bent. It's rated Republican Favored by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call. The candidate's team: Jamestown Associates (media), Joe Justin of the Justin Company (mail), Jeff Burton of Burton Kamins Advocacy (general consultant), Greg Strimple of GS Strategy Group (polling).

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Former state Sen. Tony Strickland is back in 2014, running in a new Golden State open-seat contest.  

Last cycle, Strickland ran and lost a competitive race to now-Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., in the neighboring 26th District. Just a few months after losing, Strickland filed with the Federal Election Commission to run again in 2014 — though there were soon questions about where.  

Rumors swirled in Southern California that Strickland would run for McKeon's seat if the incumbent opted to retire from the 25th, which is more favorable to Republicans than the Ventura-based 26th.  

"Earlier in 2013, Buck McKeon reached out to me and he said that he was considering not running for re-election," Strickland said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. "I grew up in the district, I grew up in Simi Valley, I represented a large percentage of this district [in the state Senate] ... and there was something appealing about representing the community that you grew up in. As I talked to folks like the mayor of Simi Valley and others, they were very encouraging that I would do that. I called a lot of supporters and asked them what they think they said, 'We just want your voice in Washington. We think you're going to be very effective.'"  

Strickland, who made the switch official in early December, faces Republican state Sen. Steve Knight and podiatrist Lee Rogers, a Democrat, in the June 3 top-two primary. The two highest vote recipients, regardless of party, will advance to the general.  

Strickland said McKeon's endorsement helps set him apart from the field.  

"I've had a good relationship with the chairman and his support is going to be very big in my district," Strickland said. "The one person who knows what it takes in terms of leadership in Congress, and that also represents this district and this community, looks at all the candidates and says I'm the candidate to replace him — and I take that as a very humbling feeling."  

Strickland also has an interesting tie to another prominent member of the House Republican caucus: Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Strickland and McCarthy were roommates at one point during their time in the California state Legislature.  

"But I'm not a Washington congressman," Strickland said of his endorsements from members of Congress. "It's more important to have the mayor of Simi Valley, it's more important to have the people who are in your Chamber of Commerce within your community and business leaders in your community and voters, and that's the endorsements I'm looking for."  

This video interview series questions the scores of congressional hopefuls who visit the CQ Roll Call offices each cycle. Responses and questions have been edited and condensed. Have a question for a candidate? Follow us at @RollCallPols to learn about upcoming interviews. Previous candidate interviews: