Rep. Buck McKeon (R)
California 25th District
The settled area of Los Angeles County does not end at the mountains at the northern rim of the San Fernando Valley. It continues along Route 14 past the mountain-surrounded city of Santa Clarita, with 170,000 residents, and the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, past the former gold-mining center of Acton, and on to where the mountains stop at the San Andreas Fault and the desert stretches out low and flat. This is Antelope Valley, with huge aerospace plants and military bases around the fast-growing towns of Palmdale and Lancaster, where more than 285,000 people live. Not far from upscale shopping centers, there has been a resurgence of specialty farm crops such as baby carrots, organic onions, and parsnips. Traffic congestion and incidents of gang crime have supplanted the once rural lifestyle. A new expressway that’s under construction will eventually link Antelope and Victor valleys. However, overall transportation services were set back in 2009 when the Palmdale airport closed, two months after United Airlines ended flights to the airport. The adjacent Air Force Plant 42 is home to many defense contractors, with projects that include the B-2 Stealth Bomber, the F-117 Stealth Fighter, and the Joint Strike Fighter. Beyond Antelope Valley, the desert stretches for miles, with clumps of human settlement—Edwards Air Force Base, where Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 and where the Space Shuttle has frequently landed, and the desert towns of Victorville and Barstow.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 25th Congressional District of California covers these areas, though it shares Edwards AFB with the 22nd District. Geographically, it is vast, the largest in the state. It extends far to the north, across the almost uninhabited Mojave Desert and mountains to include the national parks of Death Valley and Owens Valley. The military occupies hundreds of thousands of acres with its China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, the Goldstone deep-space communications complex, and the battlefield training center at Fort Irwin. The district then swings north to include mountainous Inyo and Mono counties. Politically, this has been a Republican district, though in the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama won 49.4%-48.3%.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Sept. 9, 1938, Los Angeles .
Home: Santa Clarita.
Education: Brigham Young U., B.S. 1985.
Family: Married (Patricia); 6 children.
Elected office: William S. Hart Schl. District Bd., 1979–87; Santa Clarita mayor, 1987–88; Santa Clarita City Cncl., 1988–92.
Professional Career: Small businessman; Owner, Howard & Phil's Western Wear, 1973–00; Chmn., Valencia Natl. Bank, 1987–88.
The congressman from the 25th District is Howard (Buck) McKeon, a Republican first elected in 1992. McKeon (mac-KEE-an) in 2009 became the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, making him the minority’s party’s leading voice on defense issues. He grew up in Southern California, graduated from Brigham Young University, and then went to work in the family business, Howard and Phil’s Western Wear. He later took over the chain, which at its peak had 52 stores in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. (The business closed in 2000.) McKeon was the first mayor of Santa Clarita, after it was incorporated in 1987. He ran for a new U.S. House seat in 1992 and won the crucial GOP primary 40%-38% over Assemblyman Phil Wyman.
|Buck McKeon (R)||144,660||(58%)||($903,400)|
|Jackie Conaway (D)||105,929||(42%)||($10,486)|
|Buck McKeon (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (65%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (75%), 1996 (62%), 1994 (65%), 1992 (52%)
With a voting record that has been reliably conservative, McKeon has long been an influential member of the Education and Labor Committee. He is a former chairman of the committee, and was the ranking Republican until he gave up the post in June 2009 to become the ranking Republican on Armed Services. In 2001, he handled the renewal of the higher-education bill and advocated steps that would penalize hundreds of universities and colleges that have raised tuition much faster than inflation. Many schools and Democrats complained loudly that he was advocating price controls. McKeon responded that he simply was calling for removal of federal aid from schools that push their rates too high. But in the face of opposition from the Bush administration, he abandoned the proposal, claiming that many colleges had moved to rein in tuition hikes. Another of his priorities was a bill granting full Social Security benefits to teachers and other public servants who receive local pensions and take a second job. (In 13 states, these retirees must take cuts in Social Security.)
When Rep. John Boehner of Ohio stepped down as full committee chairman to become majority leader in February 2006, McKeon succeeded him, leapfrogging two more-senior Republicans. In the remaining months of the Republican majority, he completed an overhaul of employment training programs and a sweeping rewrite of pension laws, with the support of Boehner, who had initiated the legislation as chairman.
In 2007, after Republicans lost the majority, McKeon became ranking Republican, a challenging post, with activist chairman Democrat George Miller of California in charge. In 2008, he cooperated with Miller on the renewal of the Higher Education Act, which took steps to control college costs and to increase financial aid for students. Despite strong criticism from the Bush administration, the House overwhelmingly approved the legislation, which established a list of the nation’s most expensive colleges and cracked down on the way student loan companies try to gain favor with college officials and get access to students. The legislation also raised the maximum Pell grant, a financial award to needy students, from $4,000 to $8,000 a year. And it prohibited gifts and profit-sharing arrangements between lenders and colleges.
On an issue of great local interest, McKeon in 2008 joined Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California on a proposal to give wilderness protection to 430,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada and San Gabriel mountains. It was enacted in March 2009 as part of a public-lands bill.
McKeon has been re-elected without serious opposition. In 2008, he won his closest-ever re-election, 58%-42%, over Democrat Jackie Conaway, a law-office manager who campaigned on tougher enforcement of immigration laws.