Rep. Darrell Issa (R)
California 49th District
The California coast between Los Angeles and San Diego has never entirely filled up with development—and never will as long as the Marine Corps retains custody of Camp Pendleton, the giant training base just south of the Orange-San Diego County line and the Corps’s largest expeditionary training facility on the West Coast. The land along the coast and inland in northern San Diego County, usually referred to as North County, was largely empty territory a half-century ago—never fertile enough to produce a large farm community, never endowed with much manufacturing, never actively promoted as a retirement community. But North County has been growing rapidly since then. Today about 1 million people live here, and who can blame them? This is one of America’s most beautiful and comfortable environments, with ocean and mountain scenery, sunny and warm weather, no rural poverty, and low crime. Amid dry but not desert landscape, there are miles of rolling hills, with occasional sagebrush-like bushes. Mountains rise up not in ridges, but here and there at random. It has attracted thousands of new migrants—many, but by no means all, retirees.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 49th Congressional District of California occupies the northern part of San Diego County and the southwestern corner of Riverside County. It was the fastest-growing California district in the 1990s, with a population increase of 35%; it grew another 17% between 2000 and 2007. On the coast next to Camp Pendleton is Oceanside, a lower-middle-income town heavily dependent on the base. Oceanside suffered many casualties during the Iraq war. Inland is Vista, a higher-income community that calls itself the “climatic wonderland of the United States,” with day after day of blue skies, sunshine, and average high temperatures that range from 68 degrees in January to 82 degrees in July. About 35% of the district’s population is in these two areas. About 25% is in small communities in North County, including a small portion of San Diego. Another 40% is in Riverside County in an area with many evangelical Christians and mega-churches.
The district also takes in Temecula, an increasingly congested area with more than 100,000 people, mostly commuters attracted by low-priced homes and a family-oriented lifestyle. The city was hit badly by the recession, with an estimated 15% of its homes in foreclosure in 2008. To the north are the older communities of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake and Perris. Politically, this is a heavily Republican area, which rarely elects Democrats to any office. It voted 63% for Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 and 53% for GOP nominee John McCain in 2008.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: Nov. 1, 1953, Cleveland, OH .
Education: Sienna Heights U., B.A. 1976.
Religion: Antioch Orthodox Christian.
Family: Married (Kathy); 1 child.
Military career: Army, 1970-72; 1976-80.
Professional Career: Founder & pres., Directed Electronics, 1982-99.
The congressman from the 49th District is Darrell Issa (EYE-sah), a Republican first elected in 2000. He grew up in a working-class section of Cleveland, the son of an X-ray technician. Hampered by dyslexia, Issa found academics difficult, and he dropped out of high school to join the Army. After his service, the military paid for him to finish school, and he graduated from Sienna Heights University in Michigan. A brother’s run-ins with the law for car theft spurred Issa’s idea for his first business venture. He invested all of his savings, some $7,000, in a car-alarm business in Cleveland, eventually taking it over with his wife, Kathy, and relocating the business to Vista, Calif., north of San Diego. Their Directed Electronics became the nation’s largest manufacturer of vehicle security systems, including the popular Viper system, and earned them a fortune estimated at $200 million. Issa became active in the high-technology industry, serving as chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association.
|Darrell Issa (R)||140,300||(58%)||($950,631)|
|Robert Hamilton (D)||90,138||(37%)||($63,217)|
|Lars Grossmith (Lib)||10,232||(4%)|
|Darrell Issa (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (77%), 2000 (61%)
In the early 1990s, he turned to politics, contributing to Republicans and chairing the 1996 campaign to pass Proposition 209, which banned the use of racial quotas and preferences in California. In 1998, he ran for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and spent $9.8 million of his own money. But he lost the primary 45%-40% to Matt Fong. In November 1999, when U.S. Rep. Ron Packard announced his retirement, there was a crowded field of 10 for the Republican primary, which in all likelihood would determine the winner given the political lean of the district. The race turned into a bruising two-man contest between Issa and state Sen. Bill Morrow. Mark Dornan, the son of former Republican Rep. Robert Dornan, trailed well behind. Morrow questioned Issa’s business practices, and Issa raised questions about Morrow’s honesty. On most issues, the candidates took similar positions. They supported streamlining government, opposed abortion rights, and favored rebuilding the military. Issa spent $1.5 million of his own money on the primary, and beat Morrow 46%-30%. In the fall, the Democratic nominee abandoned his campaign after getting little national party support, and Issa won 61%-28%. He has been re-elected easily.
In the House, Issa’s voting record has been relatively moderate, especially on the foreign-affairs issues that capture his attention. On the eve of George W. Bush’s decision to start military action in Afghanistan, Issa joined Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., in a visit to several Middle East nations to build support for the United States. During that trip, he suggested that he was the victim of racial profiling when he was kept off an Air France flight to Paris; the airline claimed that he was late. Of Lebanese descent, Issa has been vocal in condemning the sponsorship of terrorism by Arab nations while also urging the United States to reach out to build coalitions with friendly Arab nations. That earned him enemies among pro-Israel groups, including extremists on that side of the conflict. Two members of the militant Jewish Defense League were charged with plotting to blow up Issa’s office in San Clemente and a Culver City mosque. One of them died in 2002 and the other pleaded guilty to civil-rights and weapons violations in September 2005. In April 2007, Issa joined a delegation to Syria led by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who criticized President Bush’s lack of dialogue with Syrian leaders.
On immigration, a big issue in California, Issa has sought to prevent illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses, and has demanded more vigorous prosecution of smuggling across the border. He also has been active on patent-reform issues. Drawing on his experience as a patent holder (he holds 37 of them), Issa sponsored in 2009 a bipartisan bill to enhance the expertise of district court judges hearing patent cases. Courts would be assigned a clerk with expertise in patent law or with the technical issues arising in patent cases. With Democrat Howard Berman of California, he co-sponsored legislation to create a post-grant review of already-issued patents and to establish an “apportionment rule” for calculating damages in a patent lawsuit. He worked to broker a deal that would satisfy both the drugmakers who oppose the bill and the high-tech firms that support it. The technology industry has led the charge for patent reform, contending it is being held hostage by “patent trolls” who obtain patents solely for the purpose of launching infringement suits to cash in on multibillion-dollar damage awards.
Issa is the senior Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he leads the minority party’s oversight of the Obama administration. By hiring aides with investigative backgrounds, Issa hoped to conduct independent investigations in the 111th Congress (2009-10), despite lacking the majority’s subpoena power. He also has a strong interest in the 2010 census and redistricting.
Issa became widely known outside his district for his role in the 2003 recall election of California Gov. Gray Davis, which got national attention. He spent $1.7 million of his own money to get the signatures needed for the recall election. Without his money, the partisan effort likely would have failed. He wanted to run for governor on the replacement ballot, but got elbowed out by the celebrity campaign of former actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Issa tearfully announced that he would not run. After Schwarzenegger won, Issa was an early supporter of his nonpartisan redistricting proposal and made known his interest in running for lieutenant governor in 2006. But Republicans chose conservative Tom McClintock to run.