In the end, for all his bravado, Rep, Darryl Issa (R-49th Congressional District) saw the handwriting on the wall, the constant presence of Indivisible 49 protestors outside his offices, the specter of Donald Trump and took the easy way out.
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, kiss Darryl Issa, goodbye.
It was all over with a whimper Wednesday, Jan. 10, way in advance of what would have been a bang and obvious loss in November.
“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” Issa said in a surprise statement. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”
For the full statement, visit here.
Call them psychic, Indivisible activists already had planned a satirical Issa Retirement party at his Vista office Wednesday. That party turned real with the early morning announcement from Issa in a written statement with no follow-up, as yet, by journalist questions.
“After more than one year of hosting the largest and most sustained weekly congressional office protests in the nation, Indivisible 49 and its coalition of supporters will celebrate the announced retirement of Rep. Darrell Issa today,” Indivisible 49 organizers said.
“Led by Ellen Montanari of Solana Beach and Misty and Tim O’Healy of Carlsbad, the all-volunteer anti-Issa rallies drew an average of 380 protesters every Tuesdayfor more than 50 weeks,” Indivisible said. “Yesterday in the rain, a group of more than 30 volunteers organized 180 protesters at a mock retirement party for Issa outside his Vista office and will reconvene today to celebrate his real retirement.”
The Indivisible party led off at noon at 1800 Thibodo Road Vista 92081 with dozens of people, then hundreds, flocking to the hallowed ground above which Issa famously shot photos of protesters from the roof of his office building this summer.
“Secretary Clinton won this district by a huge margin in 2016, and the cohort of strong Democratic challengers, unprecedented grassroots activism, and historic investment by the DCCC in Southern California means we are in a strong position to elect a Democrat to the 49th District this fall,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Drew Godinich.
In recent months, at least 30 House Republicans have announced they will leave Congress, according to CNN. Several Senate Republicans have also announced their plans to retire, including Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.).
Analysts for Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics quickly changed their appraisal of the race from a toss-up to the “leans Democratic” category, saying Issa’s close 2016 win showed voters may be more willing to consider a Democrat.
For a year, according to reports, hundreds of activists have appeared weekly outside of Issa’s office to protest. At first, Issa routinely engaged with them, but his frustrations with the ongoing protests grew until he stopped the interaction.
On Tuesday, activists with a local Indivisible group huddled under umbrellas outside Issa’s Vista office for a premature “retirement party” for the congressman, complete with festive signs and a cake shaped like a Hawaiian shirt, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The lyrics they sang seemed ominous in retrospect: “Issa, you’ll retire, your situation’s dire, we will soon replace you, never fear. Now we must report, now your time is short, Issa you’ll retire this year.”
Issa, 64, was first elected to Congress in 2000. After the 2010 elections, he had become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he dedicated himself to investigating the Obama administration zealously.
The Issa-led “Fast and Furious” investigation eventually led to an unprecedented House contempt vote against then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012. He was a key player in the GOP probe into the 2012 Benghazi attack, and Issa got national headlines for his role in investigating the IRS’ treatment of conservative nonprofit groups.
In 1998, the Times said, Issa spent $9.8 million in the Republican primary for the chance to challenge Barbara Boxer for Senate, but lost to Matt Fong. He was elected to the House in 2000 with 61% of the vote, and in 2003, he spent $1.7 million to get the signatures needed for a recall election of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
Issa had hoped to replace Davis himself, but abruptly quit during a tearful news conference when Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the race, saying he was assured a quality candidate was running.
Issa’s district has changed considerably over the years, becoming more diverse and less conservative. In an attempt to appeal to his new voting base, the one-time Obama antagonist sent out a mailer last cycle touting praise from the former president.
Several Republican candidates, according to Politico, already have started testing the waters for a run. Assemblyman Bill Brough said he’s “considering running,” while local Republican operatives floated several other potential names, including Diane Harkey, a member of the California Board of Equalization; state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez; San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar; and Scott Baugh, a former Orange County GOP chairman.
All the candidates will run together in the June 5 primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election in November, regardless of party.
Democrats need 24 seats to flip control of the House, according to NPR, and history, in addition to other promising signs, is on their side. Going back to World War II, the president’s party loses an average of 28 seats in his first midterm election — and none of those happened with a president’s approval rating as low as Trump’s currently sits. The exception was in 2002, when the Republicans gained seats about a year after the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Democrats have an 11-point edge in the generic ballot, on track with where they need to be to pick up the seats to take control, even with the advantage Republicans have from gerrymandering and the pattern of Democratic voters clustered in urban areas.
“Vulnerable House Republicans would clearly rather call it quits than stand for re-election with a deeply unpopular agenda hanging over their heads,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law. “The total number of Republican retirements and the importance of the open seats to the overall battlefield are a huge problem for Speaker [Paul] Ryan’s imperiled majority.”
House Republican Retirements
A record number of 31 House Republicans have already announced they won’t seek re-election. This list does not include members who have already resigned, if their seat will be filled by a special election before November.
SEEKING HIGHER OFFICE?
COOK PARTISAN VOTING INDEX
|Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Fla.||1989||No||D+5||Clinton, 58%-39%|
|Dave Reichert, Wash.||2004||No||EVEN||Clinton, 46%-43%|
|Ed Royce, Calif.*||1992||No||EVEN||Clinton, 52%-43%|
|Frank LoBiondo, N.J.||1994||No||R+1||Trump, 50%-46%|
|Darrell Issa, Calif.||2000||No||R+1||Clinton, 51%-43%|
|Charlie Dent, Pa.||2004||No||R+4||Trump, 51%-44%|
|Dave Trott, Mich.||2014||No||R+4||Trump, 49%-45%|
|Steve Pearce, N.M.||2002; 2010||Governor||R+6||Trump, 50%-40%|
|Ron DeSantis, Fla.||2012||Governor||R+7||Trump, 46%-40%|
|Pat Tiberi, Ohio*||2000||No||R+7||Trump, 52%-41%|
|Jim Renacci, Ohio||2010||Governor||R+8||Trump, 56%-39%|
|Joe Barton, Texas||1984||No||R+9||Trump, 54%-42%|
|Lynn Jenkins, Kansas||2008||No||R+10||Trump, 56%-37%|
|Lamar Smith, Texas*||1986||No||R+10||Trump, 52%-42%|
|Lou Barletta, Pa.||2010||Senate||R+10||Trump, 60%-36%|
|Ted Poe, Texas||2004||No||R+11||Trump, 52%-43%|
|Sam Johnson, Texas||1991||No||R+13||Trump, 54%-40%|
|Bob Goodlatte, Va.*||1992||No||R+13||Trump, 59%-35%|
|Blake Farenthold, Texas||2010||No||R+13||Trump, 60%-36%|
|Gregg Harper, Miss.*||2008||No||R+13||Trump, 61%-37%|
|Kristi Noem, S.D.||2010||Governor||R+14||Trump, 62%-32%|
|Jeb Hensarling, Texas*||2002||No||R+16||Trump, 62%-34%|
|Todd Rokita, Ind.||2010||Senate||R+17||Trump, 64%-30%|
|Jim Bridenstine, Okla.||2012||NASA Administrator (awaiting confirmation)||R+17||Trump, 61%-33%|
|Luke Messer, Ind.||2012||Senate||R+18||Trump, 67%-26%|
|Bill Shuster, Pa.*||2001||No||R+19||Trump, 69%-27%|
|John Duncan, Tenn.||1988||No||R+20||Trump, 65%-30%|
|Marsha Blackburn, Tenn.||2002||Senate||R+20||Trump, 67%-28%|
|Raul Labrador, Idaho||2010||Governor||R+21||Trump, 64%-25%|
|Evan Jenkins, W.Va.||2014||Senate||R+23||Trump, 73%-23%|
|Diane Black, Tenn.*||2010||Governor||R+24||Trump, 72%-24%|
Note: Asterisks denote committee chairs.