The same day news broke that a grand jury had issued subpoenas in the criminal investigation of Rep. Duncan Hunter, fellow Californian Republican Rep. Darrell Issa announced his decision not to run for re-election, or more specifically, Issa announced his decision not to run for re-election in his congressional district.
A close reading of that press release reveals that Issa plans to retire. But it does not say anything about leaving Congress completely. The Hill now reports that Issa is considering another run for Congress in California’s 50th Congressional District once he leaves behind the neighboring 49th district.
While Issa has remained mum, Hunter has confirmed the plan. “If I was to blow up in the air, then he would be running for it. If I was to blow up, then he would run for the seat,” Hunter said, offering his endorsement and showcasing his way with words. “If I blow up, yes. Why wouldn’t he run for my seat if I was to blow up in the air?”
Resignations, or explosions, aside, RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., need to make this happen. They need to let Issa solve their Hunter dilemma.
Since inheriting his seat from his politician father in 2008, Hunter has been both an annoyance and a liability. The vaping art vandal is best known for smoking e-cigarettes in committee and tearing down paintings in the hallways of the Capitol basement. Those gaffes were easy enough to correct. The ongoing FBI investigation into campaign spending and the amendment that Hunter accidentally offered, the one which would’ve forced women to register for the draft, were not.
Those mistakes are more than likely to cost Hunter his seat; his Democrat challengers were already out fundraising him back in October. And those mistakes might lose Republicans their majority; Democrats only need to gain 24 seats. Swap Issa in for Hunter though, replace the frat boy with the committee chair, and things change.
Issa probably can’t hold on to the 49th District, where he won by just 1,621 votes las time around. Issa probably can win in the much more conservative 50th District, where Hunter won by more than 75,000 votes before his legal trouble. Though embarrassed by Hunter, that red electorate wouldn’t hesitate to show up for Issa on Election Day.
Issa wouldn’t even need to change his address. Legally, the Constitution only requires candidates to be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state, not the congressional district, they wish to represent in the House. Politically, Issa even represented some of Hunter’s voters before redistricting in 2010.
On top of all of this, district hopping isn’t unheard of, either. Rep. George Holding crossed over into North Carolina's 2nd Congressional to primary his Republican colleague Renee Ellmers after his own district was shuffled around by the state legislature. He defeated her 53 to 24 in the primary then cruised to victory in the general. There is no reason to think Issa couldn’t do the same.
Trading places is possible, but it requires all parties to act quickly. The longer Hunter hangs around, the more difficult the switch becomes. Issa has about two months before the March 9th filing deadline for the primary. Party brass should turn up the heat on Hunter. This might be the last chance they’ll get.