Politics

Here's how Rep. Darrell Issa has moved toward the center since he almost lost in November

Back in November, Rep. Darrell Issa won reelection over a novice Democrat by fewer than 2,000 votes, and it seems to have shaken him.

The nine-term Vista Republican has made multiple moves that indicate the conservative watchdog during the Obama era is moving to moderate his image as Democrats target his seat for 2018. He’s already drawn two Democratic opponents.

Does Issa think he’s moved toward the center?

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said by phone, calling the idea “bullshit.”

Issa said that nothing has changed except that more attention is focused on him.

“I am who I am. I vote based on what I think is the right thing,” he said.

Here are some ways Issa seems to have moved to the center since November.

Rep. Darrell Issa, left, greets Donald Trump during a campaign rally in May.
Rep. Darrell Issa, left, greets Donald Trump during a campaign rally in May. (John Gastaldo / TNS)

He’s been breaking with his party on Trump

In February, Issa became the first Republican to say that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who was involved in President Trump’s campaign, should recuse himself from investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

He made a splash when he followed it up with a call for an independent investigation into Russia and the election. The position put Issa, who supported Trump during the campaign, at odds with House and Senate Republican leaders who said congressional investigations were enough.

He’s been hesitant on Affordable Care Act repeal efforts

Issa was among a few Republicans who never committed to supporting or opposing House Republicans’ failed plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though he seemed to be leaning toward voting no. He said he was waiting to see whether the final bill would be acceptable, and he proposed his own healthcare legislation, which would allow all Americans to purchase the insurance plans offered to federal workers.

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He’s been highlighting time he spends with local Democrats

San Diego Rep. Juan Vargas, a Democrat, has recently become a frequent companion of Issa.

Issa spent part of the April recess visiting several countries in the Middle East with a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included Vargas.

Then the two congressmen headed to the Mexican border this week to view damage from a sewage spill. Issa repeatedly mentioned working with Vargas and fellow San Diego Democratic Rep. Scott Peters while speaking with constituents in a telephone town hall and at a protest outside his office Tuesday.

Perhaps Issa is following his own advice: At the California Republican Party’s convention in Sacramento this winter, he urged the GOP to do a better job of listening to all Americans, even the critics.

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He’s been meeting with the protesters outside his office, and trying to persuade them he’s not ultraconservative

Like many of his Republican House colleagues, Issa has been the focus of weekly protests outside his Vista office. More than 350 people showed up at Tuesday’s protest to sing songs and wave signs.

He surprised the group by coming outside and spending 15 minutes answering questions about whether he supports the Paris climate agreement (he does) and whether he’ll push to impeach Trump (he won’t).

Several of the California Republicans expected to be targeted in 2018 face protests outside their offices week after week, but Issa appeared to be the first to venture outside to chat with the protesters. It’s the second time he has done so at his district office.

On Tuesday, Issa dismissed a question from the crowd about why he votes with members of the conservative tea party wing, saying it isn’t fair to argue he consistently votes with a particular segment of the Republican Party.

“You’re all entitled to opinions, [but] I’m telling you, you can go online and look at conservative groups and what you’ll find is I’m not the most conservative Republican, I’m not the least conservative Republican, but I am a Republican,” he said.

Issa pointed to his ranking from Heritage Action, a conservative group that ranks members of Congress based on what legislation they file and how they vote on conservative issues. The group’s most recent ranking lists him as voting according to the group’s wishes 61% of the time, slightly below the national average, but the 5th highest ranking among California’s 55-member delegation.

sarah.wire@latimes.com

Follow @sarahdwire on Twitter

Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics

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