Former state Sen. Tony Strickland announced he would run for Congress in the 25th District, not the 26th District, a campaign aide said Monday.
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However, there’s a caveat: Strickland is only running if the current seat-holder, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, elects to not run again, said Jeff Burton, a campaign spokesman for Strickland.
The 25th Congressional District election, which is more than 11 months away, has already drawn much speculation from Santa Clarita politicos.
“He just made the decision that it was time to give both districts some clarity,” said Burton, adding that the move was more out of respect for Jeff Gorrell, whom he identified as Strickland’s friend. People can extrapolate from that what they will, he said, adding the move is by no means an attempt to pressure McKeon.
Gorrell, a Republican assemblyman from the 44th District, is looking to unseat 26th District incumbent Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Camarillo in November 2014.
Strickland had initially expressed an interest to run in the 26th District, but added that he had ties to both districts as a former state senator for a region that included Santa Clarita and Simi valleys.
The move is not in any way an official declaration of Strickland’s intent to run, which Strickland intends to make after McKeon’s decision on re-election is made, Burton said.
However, local blog SCVTalk published Strickland’s filing papers Monday on its site.
There has been rampant speculation for months that McKeon’s 11th and current term will be his final one, due to House rules that could prevent him from remaining chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Previous statements from McKeon spokeswoman Alissa McCurley denied any truth to the rumor that McKeon will be stepping down.
“The congressman has no plans to retire,” she said, adding that the congressman wouldn’t discuss next year’s election politics.
“There are major issues here in Washington, and the congressman is focused on the tasks at hand, doing the job he was elected to do,” she said. “There will be plenty of time to talk election politics next year, but currently the congressman isn’t interested in commenting on the ever-churning political rumor mill.”
The announcement comes less than a month after Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, called on his Republican compatriots to be more transparent in their intentions.
“I think a lot of people are getting ahead of themselves, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to (McKeon),” Strickland said earlier in response to Wilk’s piece.
Strickland previously represented portions of Santa Clarita and Simi valleys as a member of the state Assembly’s 37th District from 1998 to 2004.
Strickland also served the state Senate’s 19th District from 2008-12.
Three Democrats have already declared their intentions to seek McKeon’s seat: Jorge Ricardo Puentes, an Army veteran; Lee Rogers, a podiatrist; and Evan “Ivan” Thomas, a retired Air Force pilot.
The GOP is ready for the possibility of Gorell winning with a candidate whom Wilk said he met with while the Legislature was on break.
Part of Wilk’s responsibility within the statewide party organization is to identify potential Assembly candidates, which is why he originally penned the piece on the 25th District, he said.
“As noted, I anticipated this move months ago, so I spent part of my quote-unquote ‘summer vacation’ on Assembly District 44,” Wilk said.
“I think we’re going to have a very strong candidate,” he said, adding that the candidate would be making the announcement when the time was appropriate.
Wilk said McKeon and Strickland’s moves are “questionable” because Strickland raised approximately $400,000 under the pretext of an attempt to unseat Brownley, and instead, he’s going to be running in what’s considered by many to be a “safe” Republican district.
By delaying his decision, McKeon is forcing the issue for GOP voters, he said.
“(McKeon) is trying to not give Republicans a choice,” Wilk said, “and I think that’s wrong.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News