A Darrell Issa comeback?

After leaving office in 2018, Rep. Darrell Issa is contemplating a comeback, forming an exploratory committee to consider running for Duncan Hunter's seat in San Diego's eastern badlands and parts of Riverside County.

According to Fox News:

"I have formally launched an exploratory committee for the 50th Congressional District in California," Issa said on the site.

"I have received such a tremendous outpouring of encouragement from supporters inside the district, and around the state and across the nation. I'm truly grateful for the many encouraging phone calls, messages and letters that I have received."

It's good to see Issa back, given his distinguished role in challenging the Obama administration and all its excesses as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Issa, frankly, thrilled us, going after the likes of IRS power-abuser Lois Lerner and later standing with President Trump on almost everything.  There's much for real California conservatives to like about Issa, and with California's enacted ballot-harvesting, there are not too many left.  Like President Trump, Issa was a fighter, and he proved that in going after the Obama juggernaut against the odds.  No one really wanted him to retire — that he did was something of a mystery, possibly premised on the idea that he thought Trump wouldn't last, and we also know he was facing a tough re-election bid in 2018.  That he wants back in is obviously a vote of confidence in the political wind's general direction with Trump at the helm, and that's a good sign.  For beleaguered California conservatives, it would be a welcome thing to see Issa back in politics as a prominent and powerful presence. 

All the same, there are some caveats.  This isn't as easy as it might seem to wholeheartedly endorse.

Start with the fact that it's the 50th District he's chosen to run in this time — which is kind of a far cry from the coastal, beach mansion–filled, plummy, sybaritic northern San Diego County and southern Orange County he hails from.  He's a tech innovator and entrepreneur, and now he's proposing to run for office out in rural cowboy country, because, well, it's got to be the safest seat for conservatives in California.  Voters chose to re-elect Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., despite the bad scandal he was mired in, which left him indicted, and all this despite ballot-harvesting throughout the state, which goosed the vote to turn many congressional seats into artificially blue-ified districts.  Hunter's 50th District, by contrast, was an amazing rock of red stability in that deluge.  But would Issa truly be a fit for the district?  His politics is right, but his geography and culture are a bit different.  Hard to say if voters would choose him.

Thing is, Hunter says he isn't going anywhere.  He may have gotten stripped of his committee seats as a result of his indictment over his misuse of campaign funds (quite unlike Rep. Ilhan Omar), but he hasn't been sitting idle.  My sources tell me he's actually focused very much on serving his constituents instead now.  That kind of customer service to people who are usually ignored by the big city people has got to be worth a lot of goodwill.  If Hunter survives the indictment without going to the big house (which, to be honest, seems unlikely if the trial is held in San Diego proper with its leftist juror pool) he could very well be re-elected.  His father was a long-serving congressman who was absolutely adored by the locals, and the goodwill is definitely there and building.  That would make Issa's entry to challenge him a bit of a problem.

There's also an earlier challenger to the seat: Carl de Maio, a hugely respected conservative from San Diego proper who also has a great following.  He's the go-to guy to check out his recommendations on all the down-ballot candidates — he does the research so conservatives don't have to spend ten hours googling.  My own view of de Maio is that he's a leader who should be entering the national scene.  He's come of age, he's experienced politically from his city council days, and his influence would be a good thing to see grow.  There's also an emotional element to him: he's more or less the last conservative standing in San Diego proper, the conservative who stayed with us voters as the blue deluge descended.  If Hunter goes, de Maio would be a good guy for the congressional seat, too, even if he's not a complete backcountry local.

Hunter's a flawed candidate but a good servant of the people and will be fine for re-election if he survives his legal troubles.  De Maio is an up-and-comer, and he deserves a more visible role now that he's shown his chops.  Issa in the picture is potentially great, too. One almost wonders why he doesn't run in his old district and challenge the leftist who now has his old seat instead.  Issa actually has the horsepower to do that, and conservatives should be focusing on expanding their representation instead of just changing faces in safe seats.

It leaves some caveats up, but all the same, if Issa beats the others in the primary, it's full speed ahead.

Image credit: Caricature by DonkeyHotey via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.

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