Big News from California: Two House Republicans Announce Retirement

At the start of 2018, 29 Republican lawmakers had announced their decision to step down or run for another office.

Two House Republicans added to that list this week, both from California: on Jan. 10, GOP Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-49), whose district covers the southern portion of the state, announced that he will not seek re-election. Earlier in the week, Representative Ed Royce (CA-39), also in Southern California, made the same announcement. 

Out of 53 House members from California, just 14 are Republicans; now two of them are stepping down. They were already considered to be in danger and thus in line to be Democratic pick-ups in the 2018 elections.

This is huge news for Democrats, who have long believed that their path to taking back control of the House begins in California. All 14 House Republicans from California voted to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and more recently 12 of them voted for the tax reform bill, including both Darrell Issa and Ed Royce. The tax bill is especially damaging to homeowners in this state with high taxes, since it eliminates the deduction for both state and local taxes.

It’s possible that both GOP Congressmen were not looking forward to facing their constituents after these votes, so they decided to retire.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve. Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election on California’s 49th District,” read Issa’s statement.

The GOP Congressman has served in the House since 2001 and most recently has been chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he is known as a conservative attack dog, going after the Obama administration on Benghazi, Libya, the IRS and the “Fast and Furious” gun sting.

However, in the most recent re-election race he won his seat against Democrat Doug Applegate by a mere 1,621 votes, the first time he had been in a competitive race.

Now Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, will run again, along with three other Democrats. 


Photo Credit: House Committee on Foreign Affairs

The first to retire this week was Ed Royce, whose 39th Congressional district is a suburban area covering parts of north Orange County and extending into Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, not far from Issa’s district. Once a bastion of Republicans (it was the birthplace of Richard Nixon), it voted heavily for Hillary Clinton on 2016.

Royce has to give up his position as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee this year because of term limits, so it may be that he was unwilling to take a less important role in Congress, but the reality is that this would have been a hard-fought race for him.

Last year, Royce took 57 percent of the vote; that might sound like a solid number but it is the lowest percentage since he first ran in 1992. 

Times have changed and CA-39 is now a majority-minority district, with a population roughly one third Hispanic and one third Asian American.

Five Democrats are already running for Royce’s seat, including Andy Thorburn and Gil Cisneros, two self-funders with assets in the millions and excitingly, May-Khanh Tran, a pediatrician and former refugee from Vietnam who has the backing of Emily’s List. There is a large population of former Vietnamese refugees in this area.

California’s rules mean that the top two candidates in a primary face each other in a runoff election, regardless of political party.

As chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce is known as a foreign policy hawk who often differed with President Obama on issues including North Korea and Iran. He’s also called for tougher sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, posing a challenge to Trump.

It looks like some Republicans are reluctantly admitting what Virginia Governor Terry McAuliff declared when asked about Trump’s impact on the Republican Party: “Oh, I think Trump has taken the party into the gutter. No question. Absolutely.”

With the withdrawal of 32 GOP lawmakers unwilling to face tough re-election campaigns, this could be the start of a wave election year for Democrats.

As Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Drew Godinich said immediately after Issa made his announcement, “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.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer6 hours ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara4 days ago


Jen S
Jen S5 days ago

I am not remotely sorry to see Issa or Royce go; indeed, for Issa's departure, I may do my version of Snoopy's happy dance when it happens. I had heard he was planning to run in another district when, in fact, he should have been indicted years ago.

Winn A
Winn A5 days ago

Works for me . . . . .

Joan E
Joan E5 days ago

John, I read that, too. I hope the new district rejects him as a carpetbagger.

Karin Hanson
Karin Hanson6 days ago

So many more or these Greedy Old Poops need to leave so the country can actually get back to being a "Country of the People".

John B
John B6 days ago

Thanks Judy for the post. I also read where Issa is planning on running in another district.

Richard A
Richard A6 days ago

Issa should retire to a prison cell.

Angela J
Angela J6 days ago

Thank you.

Cruel Justice
Cruel J6 days ago

Bigger news will be when they are replaced by democrats. This country DESPERATELY needs to turn blue if it is going to survive.