Elton Gallegly, a veteran Republican member of Congress, will not seek reelection this year, avoiding a difficult race with another GOP incumbent after the redrawing of California’s political boundaries placed their homes in the same district.
Gallegly, 67, a former mayor of Simi Valley, has served in the U.S. House since 1987 and is best known for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. He recently became chairman of the House judiciary subcommittee that oversees immigration.
He is the latest of about two dozen incumbents on Capitol Hill who have announced plans to retire rather than run for reelection. Another 15 House members are giving up their seats to run for the Senate or other public office.
“It seemed like a natural time,” Gallegly said in a telephone interview Saturday. “While there’s still a lot of challenges ahead … one day I realized the business is never going to be finished. There’s always going to be another mountain to climb.”
For the Record, 9:25 a.m., Jan. 8: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said U.S. Rep. Bob Filner is a Republican. He's a Democrat.
Gallegly and his wife, Janice, gathered a small group of friends at their Simi Valley home Friday night and he disclosed his plans to step down when the current session of Congress ends in early 2013, his office said Saturday.
Gallegly is one of the first casualties of the redrawing of congressional district boundaries that takes place once every decade in California.
Conducted for the first time by a citizens’ commission instead of politicians, the new maps are shaking up the state’s congressional delegation. The commission was not permitted to consider an incumbent’s address in redrawing lines to reflect the state’s shifting population.
The commission put Gallegly’s home in the same district as Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), another popular GOP stalwart.
Gallegly said Saturday he was confident he would have won reelection in November, but had thought for some time this would be his last term. Still, the new map presented him with two unappealing options.
He either could challenge McKeon, an 18-year incumbent and the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, or run in a largely Ventura County district that has a slight Democratic edge in voter registration.
House members can run from districts where they don’t live. But Gallegly would have faced an uphill fight in Ventura County. Steve Bennett, a Democratic county supervisor, announced last fall he was seeking that seat.
Gallegly’s record includes a high-profile measure that sought to bar animal abuse in videos. He also sponsored legislation to create the commission that planned events for last year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan.
In 2006, Gallegly announced he was retiring, but was convinced to stay in the race by Karl Rove, the top political strategist for President George W. Bush. Republicans were desperately trying to retain the majority in the House, which they lost that fall.
The dynamics are different this year after redistricting. His announcement further unsettles the California congressional delegation, the nation’s largest.
Democrats Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma and Dennis Cardoza of Atwater also are retiring when their terms expire at year’s end. And Democrat Bob Filner is running for mayor of San Diego.