“No decisions have been made.”
Those five words were part of an e-mail HUMAN EVENTS received Sunday from Brad Smith, longtime right hand man to Rep. David Dreier (R.-Calif.). Smith’s words were the official answer to what has become, in the last few days, the biggest political question in California: whether Dreier, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee and one of the handful of Republicans left who came into the House with Ronald Reagan in 1980, would run for the Southern California district left open by fellow Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, who announced on January 10 that he was retiring after 34 years in Congress.
The exodus of Lewis could mean nothing short of political resurrection for Dreier, by far the biggest victim of the congressional redistricting plan crafted by a “nonpartisan” citizens commission. Under the plan’s new district lines, Dreier’s former Los Angeles County district was sliced and diced into several neighboring districts and the congressman had no obvious (and potentially winnable) district in which to run.
But now Dreier (lifetime ACU rating: 91%) could run in the 31st District that contains most of the turf represented by former Appropriations Committee Chairman Lewis or he could run in a newly-created 8th District that borders it (and includes considerable Republican territory from Lewis’s old district.
Should Dreier run in the 31st, he would be facing another incumbent GOP House Member, Gary Miller. Days ago, seven-term Rep. Miller (lifetime ACU rating: 94%) abandoned his campaign in an Orange County-based district against fellow GOP Rep. Ed Royce and announced he was instead running in the now-open 31st. Obviously relieved that two GOP incumbents won’t be facing each other, several Members of the House Republican Leadership promptly applauded Miller’s decision and endorsed him.
Also in the GOP nomination fight in the 31st is State Senate GOP Leader and staunch conservative Bob Dutton.
There are, however, several party activists in the Golden State who made clear their preference of Dreier over Miller. As Steve Frank, longtime parliamentarian to the state Republican Party, told HUMAN EVENTS: “This will not be an easy seat to keep. The GOP candidate needs to be experienced, understand federal issues and connect with the district. Dreier’s leadership position and experience, plus the millions he can raise, would make him the leading candidate for victory in November.”
Frank was referring to the fact that the 31st District is considered competitive and that the eventual GOP nominee will face a spirited November contest with Democrat Pat Aguilar, the mayor of Redlands.
Dreier could also opt for a bid in the new 8th, also known as the “High Desert” district. The 8th includes a tiny sliver of Dreier’s former district and is considered safely Republican. GOP candidates who have signaled they are running there include State Assemblyman Paul Cook, a former U.S. Marine and favorite of the liberal Prison Guards union, and San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who is considered more conservative.
Dreier could still opt for the other course that the redistricting plan appears to be pointing him toward: retirement from office altogether. Whatever course the veteran congressman takes will surely be one of the most watched political stories in California in the weeks ahead.