Longtime Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista surprised the political world when he announced his decision not to seek reelection in the 49th District on Jan. 10.
Now, two weeks later, he’s endorsing a candidate to fill his big political shoes.
Issa is endorsing the Chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization, Diane Harkey, from Dana Point.
“Hopefully the party will look seriously and get behind a candidate. I’ve gotten behind Diane Harkey because I know she can do the job,” said Issa.
But Issa said his decision is also an effort to narrow a crowded field that could grow from now until the filing deadline in February. There are at least four Republican candidates and at least four Democratic candidates running for Issa’s seat in the 49th Congressional District.
“I want to make a difference in narrowing the field so that we ensure that we will have a Republican in that runoff,” said Issa.
Issa is referring to the eventual runoff that is a by-product of California’s so-called Jungle Primary. The top two candidates, regardless of their party, will square off in a runoff during the general election. A crowded field could have a potential negative impact on either party.
“The more Republicans, obviously you don’t get as much of the vote, but that depends too. If there are a lot of Democrats, they don’t get as much of the vote, and it’s a Republican-leaning district,” said Harkey.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Doug Applegate, who narrowly lost to Issa in 2016, says it’s more about the message than the political party.
“If you’re running on principals and who’s going to be the best advocate of those principals and effecting change, then it doesn’t make any difference, you want the top two best candidates to go through,” said Applegate.
NBC San Diego reached out to other candidates in the race for the reaction on the topic. Here are portions of their emailed statements.
“Issa's endorsement will be a major problem for any candidate, given Issa's efforts to strip healthcare from millions of people and his unwavering support of Donald Trump. Voters don't want another Donald Trump puppet, which is just another reason why we will win in November,” said Democratic candidate Paul Kerr.
“An open seat will always attract many candidates and their supporters. The race for the 49th congressional district will not be a race about party but will be a race focused on issues that matter to the 49th district," said Republican candidate Rocky Chavez
“Midterms are about the President if Trump is as unpopular in November as he is today, Republicans will be in trouble regardless of who they nominate. Democrats must work together to ensure that their vote is not split too many ways in order to avoid Republicans finishing in the first two positions,” said Democratic candidate Mike Levin.
Jason Cabel Roe is a political strategist for Republican candidate Kristin Gaspar: “The fact is, Kristin has always run without the backing of the establishment, which is what voters are looking for. The field is far from set -- who is in today may not be tomorrow -- and there may end up being others who join. It’s too early to tell what the math looks like until there’s more certainty on who the candidates are.”
"Regardless of who the Republicans put up in November, they will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump's agenda and out of touch with the voters of this district," said Chelsea Brossard, campaign manager for Democratic candidate Sara Jacobs.