GOP Likely to Cede Retiring Miller’s House Seat

But Democrats are divided on his successor.

Handout photo of Rep. Gary Miller R-CA
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Feb. 12, 2014, 11:37 a.m.

Rep. Gary Miller, R-Cal­if., was the in­cum­bent most vul­ner­able to los­ing reelec­tion when he an­nounced his re­tire­ment on Wed­nes­day. But while Demo­crats are likely to pick up his South­ern Cali­for­nia seat — where voters pre­ferred Pres­id­ent Obama to Mitt Rom­ney by a 16-point mar­gin in 2012 — there’s little agree­ment among Demo­crats on whom the new mem­ber of Con­gress should be.

Miller won reelec­tion last cycle, des­pite that strong Obama per­form­ance, be­cause of a strange con­flu­ence of decen­ni­al re­dis­trict­ing and Cali­for­nia’s top-two primary sys­tem. The dis­trict was al­most en­tirely new to Miller when he de­cided to run there in 2012 and avoid a mem­ber-versus-mem­ber race with GOP Rep. Ed Royce. Miller was joined in the race by former GOP state Sen. Bob Dut­ton and a num­ber of Demo­crats, in­clud­ing Red­lands May­or Pete Aguilar, the favored can­did­ate of D.C. Demo­crats. But des­pite the dis­trict’s Demo­crat­ic lean, Miller and Dut­ton fin­ished first and second, and ad­vanced to the gen­er­al elec­tion. Aguilar fin­ished third, about 1,500 votes shy of second place and 2,500 short of Miller’s tally.

Demo­crats quickly iden­ti­fied Miller as their top 2014 tar­get — no Re­pub­lic­an rep­res­ents a dis­trict that went stonger for Obama — and Aguilar, backed by the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, is run­ning again. But Aguilar isn’t alone in seek­ing the seat. EMILY’s List, which sup­ports pro-choice Demo­crat­ic wo­men, is be­hind law­yer Eloise Gomez Reyes. The group last week eagerly touted that Gomez Reyes raised twice as much cam­paign cash as Aguilar in the pre­vi­ous fun­drais­ing quarter, and it quickly sought to cast her as the lead­ing Demo­crat in the June primary.

“The path for front-run­ner Eloise Gomez Reyes just got clear­er,” said EMILY’s List spokes­wo­man Marcy Stech. “The mo­mentum around her grass­roots cam­paign grows stronger every day as voters hear about her plan to fight for jobs, edu­ca­tion, and a fair shot for all.”

Mean­while, former Rep. Joe Baca, D-Cal­if., who, after re­dis­trict­ing, was de­feated for reelec­tion in a bor­der­ing dis­trict, has de­clared for the race. Miller’s dis­trict con­tains about two-fifths of Baca’s old one be­fore the lines were re­drawn. Baca raised very little money in the last fun­drais­ing quarter, but in a top-two, open-seat primary, his name ID could be a factor. In an in­ter­est­ing twist, Baca may have helped de­liv­er some votes to Miller in 2012 when he en­dorsed the Re­pub­lic­an in the all-GOP gen­er­al elec­tion.

Re­pub­lic­ans have a little more than three weeks to find a can­did­ate of their own. Fil­ing closes on March 7. But if a Re­pub­lic­an and a Demo­crat ad­vance to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, the Demo­crat will be­gin the race as the fa­vor­ite to move the seat in­to their party’s column.

Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee Chair­man Greg Walden is­sued a state­ment fol­low­ing the news of Miller’s re­tire­ment, thank­ing Miller and his fam­ily for their ser­vice. But un­like when fel­low Re­pub­lic­ans Jim Ger­lach and Buck McK­eon an­nounced their re­tire­ments earli­er this year, Walden didn’t ex­press con­fid­ence that Re­pub­lic­ans would hold Miller’s seat.

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