Barely two days after longtime Rep. Elton Gallegly announced his retirement from Congress, two more veteran Republican U.S. Representatives from California are poised to say soon that they are also calling it quits in 2012.
With the well-placed “Flash Report” breaking the early news on the West Coast, GOP Reps. Jerry Lewis and Wally Herger will soon declare that they are not running again. Lewis, past chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, came to Congress in 1978 and Herger, senior GOP Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, was first elected in ’86. Even after hostile redistricting that endangered at least five GOP House Members from the Golden State, both Lewis and Herger emerged from the process with safe districts. They are the 10th and 11th Republican House Members to so far say they are not running.
As it was with Herger when he first ran with the endorsement of his predecessor and fellow conservative GOP Rep. Gene Chappie, State Sen. Doug LaMalfa is expected to secure nomination and election with the blessings of the outgoing congressman. Veteran GOP consultant Dave Gilliard, who has run Herger’s campaigns for many years in the Northern California district, is now expected to become campaign quarterback for Herger’s fellow conservative LaMalfa.
In contrast, the exodus of Lewis has set the stage for a primary showdown in his safely Republican, Inland Empire district. Moderate GOPer and San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos is considered the early favorite. He is almost certain to face a challenge from a more conservative opponent, possibly State Sen. Bob Dutton.
There has also been speculation of Lewis’ departure being a “saving grace” for one and possibly two of his Republican House colleagues injured by the redistricting process. Rep. Gary Miller, now locked in an uphill primary battle with fellow GOP Rep. Ed Royce for an Orange County district, could now move with relative ease to run for Lewis’s now-open seat. And House Rules Committee Chairman and 32-year Rep. David Dreier, who has no district to run in, could now seek re-election from Lewis’s district. Dreier, by far the biggest victim of the redistricting dagger, has reportedly told friends he will not run again regardless of how the drama over redistricting in California plays out.