Days ahead of the election, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took aim at one of most unexpected close contests of the season, the 49th Congressional District race between eight-term Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and political novice Doug Applegate.
"There's an excitement across the country about getting rid of Issa," Pelosi said Friday.
Issa finished the June primary with 51% of the vote, his weakest showing in years, and Democrats have pounded him since then over his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Issa has tried to temper his reputation as a thorn in the Obama administration's side in recent weeks, talking about how he's worked across the aisle. Earlier this week, Issa urged his colleagues to stop talking about impeaching Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her private email server. He also sent out a mailer recently lauding the president for signing one of his measures.
Pelosi spoke with The Times editorial board and members of the newsroom staff in Los Angeles.
Issa's race against Applegate, a former Marine colonel who has never sought public office before, is one of a handful that House Democrats have in their sights Tuesday as they try to win the 30 seats needed to regain control of the House — a win that, while a longshot, would propel Pelosi back to the speakership.
As House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, Issa poked at President Obama over Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service, the "Fast and Furious" failed gun sting and other high-theater, cable-ready topics. But Issa's investigations often failed to show direct culpability on the part of the White House or Obama.
Pelosi said Issa was "one of the worst abusers" of taxpayers' time and money through his multiple investigations of the Obama administration and of Clinton as secretary of State, and suddenly he's changed his tune to sound more moderate.
"Now he's like, 'Oh, I think we should take impeachment off the table.' Oh really? Now he's like a Mr. Goodbar or something," Pelosi said.
Issa's campaign manager, Jonathan Wilcox, shot back with a twist on an old Almond Joy jingle via email, "Sometimes Nancy feels like a nut, sometimes she don't."
Issa spokesman Calvin Moore added that the congressman is hearing from enthusiastic voters as he takes a bus tour of the district.
"Darrell is extremely proud of the oversight work he's done year after year to hold Washington accountable," Moore said in an email. "Everywhere we go, voters respond that they appreciate the work he's done, and they are eager to send him back to Washington to do even more."
Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.