Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) says he’s joining the fray in the 49th Congressional District hours after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) announced he won’t seek reelection there.
Chavez is the first Republican to jump into a race that has already attracted several well-funded Democrats. He has the advantage of representing nearly two-thirds of Issa’s constituents in the California Legislature.
“It’s time we come together and focus on progress, not partisan politics and gridlock,” Chavez said in a statement Wednesday. “This has guided my work in the state Assembly and it will guide my work in Congress.”
In the Legislature, Chavez has built a reputation as a moderate with an interest in veterans issues and education. Last year, he faced heat from his GOP colleagues after he and seven other Republicans helped pass an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade system, a signature climate change program backed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
After entering the race for U.S. Senate in 2015, Chavez abruptly dropped out last February, just as a GOP debate was getting underway. His decision to reverse course scrambled the field of candidates already hoping to replace him in the Assembly, and Chavez won reelection by a nearly 20-point margin in 2016.
Issa’s own narrow victory last year — by just 1,621 votes, the slimmest margin in Congress — left him vulnerable as Democrats have plotted their path back to control of the House.
Other potential Republican candidates in the race could include Diane Harkey, chair of the state Board of Equalization, and GOP Senate leader Pat Bates.