Congressman Darrell Issa announced this morning that he will not seek re-election this fall, making him the 36th House Republican to do so. “Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” he stated today. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek reelection in California’s 49th District.”
Issa’s district, which includes parts of Orange County and San Diego County, has grown more liberal and more diverse. In 2016, he won re-election by only 1,621 votes, the closest congressional race of the whole cycle. The Los Angeles Times ranked him as the most vulnerable California Republican, and I included him in my piece last Wednesday, “California is Ground Zero for Control of the House in 2018.” Given his disgraceful track record in the House of Representatives, his exit from politics has been a long time coming.
Issa had been a stalwart Republican Congressman for more than ten years before he came blazing onto the scene in 2011, after his party took back Congress and appointed him Chair of the House Oversight Committee. Believing Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” he launched a series of investigations that may have had credibility in paranoid right wing circles, but which amounted to nothing in reality. Remember “Fast and Furious,” the scandal where ATF agents sold illegal firearms to criminals to track them back to drug cartels? The operation may not have entirely succeeded, but Issa tried to blow it up into another Watergate, even citing Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress when he failed to turn over documents pertinent to the investigation.
And remember Benghazi? The $7 million dollar investigation into Hillary Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State? That was started by Issa, and taken over by Trey Gowdy in 2015. For almost four years, the committee searched and searched into the incidents that led to the deaths of four Americans, and came up with absolutely nothing. This didn’t matter to Issa, who had the gall to suggest that the investigation was the reason Hillary Clinton lost in the 2016 New Hampshire primary, telling a radio host, “It’s not because they like Republicans [that Sanders is winning.] It’s because they don’t trust Hillary.” Though none of the scandals he investigated held any water, Issa spent at least more than eight figures on them, all the while promising to rein in government spending.
Like most members of his party, Issa welcomed his new insect overlord when he endorsed Donald Trump. In an interview with ABC, he assured that, if elected, Trump would face pushback from he and House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying, “We are not a team, and we are not a rubber stamp.” Since his inauguration, Issa has voted with the President 93% of the time, including the controversial tax bill, and the deciding vote on the House vote last May to repeal Obamacare. (Full disclosure: I left an angry message on his answering machine after that.) Shortly after that vote, he avoided a protest outside his office by going on the roof, a move that led to a disastrous photo op:
Issa is the second California Republican this week to announce his retirement. On Monday, Ed Royce, who also represents Orange County from his 39th District, told the press that he too would step down. Royce had received illegal donations from pro-Russian Ukrainian groups, along with fellow California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, known as “Putin’s Favorite Congressman” for his willingness to toe the Kremlin line. Issa and Royce’s districts are now even more likely to go to the Democrats than before, and should Rohrabacher choose to retire, then Orange County, once the home of the John Birch Society, may become a solidly Democratic district.
If what’s happening there is any indication, Democrats have a lot to be excited about this year.