For the better part of a year, retirement rumors have been swirling around House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA-25), and a new political move yesterday suggests that such speculation may soon become reality.
Unusual political occurrences have been happening in and around Ventura and west Los Angeles counties during the past two weeks. Tony Strickland is a former Republican state senator, statewide candidate, and 2012 congressional nominee in Ventura County’s new District 26. Last November, Strickland lost to then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) 47-53 percent. He originally had been planning to seek a re-match with Rep. Brownley in the upcoming mid-term election, but suddenly reversed course and recently said he would not run in the 26th District next year. He made it plain, however, that his personal plans included running for a different office.
The local Republican leadership then recruited Assemblyman Jeff Gorell to replace Strickland as their favored 26th District candidate. Gorell’s official announcement last week included an endorsement from Tony Strickland.
Yesterday, we witnessed a new Strickland political move that lends more credence to the Buck McKeon retirement rumors. Switching districts, Strickland filed papers to again become a congressional candidate but this time in the neighboring 25th District, the seat Rep. McKeon represents.
It is highly unlikely, however, that Strickland would challenge the congressman in the June qualifying election that, under California’s recent election law change, can send two members of the same party to the general election. Therefore, he could be running for one of two reasons. First, he is simply betting that McKeon will retire, and will therefore be ready should such a decision be made. Or, second, he has a confidential assurance from McKeon that he will not seek re-election.
The congressman has not confirmed his 2014 political plans, nor has he announced his retirement. Through Sept. 30, however, McKeon had raised $417,465, and spent $310,340. His cash-on-hand figure is $623,749, hardly aggregate dollar figures that suggest retirement. Still, with his win percentage in the post-redistricting CA-25 dropping to 54.8 percent, much lower than in the seat’s previous configuration, a more competitive campaign is likely on the horizon.
In 2012, his Democratic opponent, podiatrist Lee Rogers, only spent $350,000 on his entire campaign but still managed to secure 45.2 percent of the vote. Dr. Rogers has already announced his intention to run again in 2014, and is being looked upon as a more serious contender this time around.
The candidate filing deadline for the June 3 qualifying election is not until March 7, so the congressman still has adequate time to decide whether he will run again. But, the Strickland move into this district certainly increases retirement speculation, and McKeon’s coming reaction to the move should provide a glimpse into thought pattern about what comes next.