Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) announced Wednesday morning that he would not seek re-election, effectively starting his retirement.
Issa’s decision comes amid a series of now 30 House Republicans who have also announced their decision to not seek re-election in 2018, including Rep. Ed Royce (R-39). The congressional race for Issa’s seat had been predicted to be one of the most contested, as Issa’s winning margin in the 2016 election against Democrat Doug Applegate was less than one percentage point.
The 49th district encompasses most of North San Diego County, including the UC San Diego campus west of Interstate 5. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the district with 51 percent of the vote to President Trump’s 43 percent, further signaling that the historically Republican district would be one to watch in the midterm election. In addition to Applegate, Democrats Mike Levin and Paul Kerr are running in the top-two primary to secure a spot in the general election. Sara Jacobs, a former State Department staffer and granddaughter of Irwin Jacobs, entered the race late in November.
During his 18 years in Congress, Issa was known as a “conservative attack dog” for his work on the Oversight Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Issa was also the originator of the Benghazi Committee that investigated Clinton and President Obama for their actions related to the 2012 attack against U.S. army personnel in Libya. In his retirement statement, Issa noted, “Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve.”
Some student leaders at UCSD voiced similar opinions.
“The College Republicans at UCSD would like to thank Congressman Issa for 17 years of service to California’s 49th Congressional District and the American people,” said Drew Olbrant, second year and member of the College Republicans at UCSD. “Issa saw tremendous success during his tenure, including numerous bills he introduced [that became] law. Darrell Issa is a champion of limited government and government accountability. His shoes will be tough to fill but we look forward to getting to know who will take on that task,”
San Diego Regional Vice Chair of the California College Republicans and UCSD student Gregory Lu praised Issa’s work for the district. “I’m grateful for Congressman Issa’s many years of service in Congress and am really looking forward to see what Republican candidate will take his place. I want to thank him for his leadership in the House Oversight Committee to monitor wasteful government spending as well as his tenure in the Judiciary Committee.”
For other student organizations, Issa’s retirement was a long time coming.
“Darrell Issa is a rude, negligent, and dismissive man who does nothing to represent UCSD or its student body,” said Aidan Beals, President of the UCSD College Democrats. “His embrace of Trump was a disgrace to California, and his years of partisan grandstanding were corruptive at best. His retirement is fantastic news for this district and the country, because we are assured to not be stifled by two more years of poor leadership and selfishness.”
Given the recent wave of House Republicans opting to not seek re-election in 2018, Issa’s retirement calls into question the likelihood of success for Republicans in the midterm elections and what it means for both parties.
“We have great confidence in the future of Republican congressmen in the state of California,” Olbrant said. “Congressman Issa and Congressman Royce’s retirement provide a blueprint of what a successful legislative career looks like and paves the way for younger candidates to build on that precedent with new ideas.”
As for the Democrats, Issa’s retirement is not a cause for celebration, but a call for focus.
“We are incredibly excited, but we are being sure to not lose focus of getting a Democrat elected in 2018. There’s no room for complacency in such a tight district,” Beals said. “Activists must not become complacent now. His retirement does not mean the retirement of tired, greedy, unrepresentative leadership.”
Anabel King is a staff writer at The Triton. You can follow her on Twitter @anabelkingg