By Leon Worden / SCVNews.com
Thirteen-term Congressman Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, announced his decision Saturday to retire at the end of the current congressional session.
The decision clears the way for Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, to seek reelection in a newly redrawn 25th congressional district that might have seen Gallegly and McKeon go head-to-head.
The new district map puts both McKeon, 73, and Gallegly, 67, in the same district. Speculation has swirled for several months about Gallegly’s future. Will he retire, run against McKeon for the 25th, or run next door for Ventura’s congressional seat? (Unlike other office holders, members of Congress aren’t required to live in their own district, just their state.)
McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, met with Gallegly a couple of months ago to ask his intentions but he refused to commit.
On Saturday, Gallegly answered the question in a prepared statement:
“Serving in Congress and representing my home for 25 years is the greatest experience I could have ever asked for. Working with our country’s leadership on a daily basis in striving to move toward a better, stronger and more vibrant America for more than two decades has been a dream come true.
“The decision to step aside at this time did not come lightly. But in the end, Janice and I decided now was the right time to begin the next chapter in our lives. We are truly blessed to have our health, our family, and so many, many friends that we look forward to spending more time with.”
Gallegly is vice chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
He was also the first congressman Buck McKeon ever met.
“Elton came to my house for an event and I met him there,” McKeon told SCVNews.com on Saturday.
“When I first ran for Congress, Elton was very helpful,” he said. “When I arrived in Washington, he picked me up and drove me around (and) helped me find my first townhouse.”
McKeon called him a “great friend.”
“I have the highest admiration for Elton and his work, and in particular his work on the Foreign Affairs Committee – a lot of which may never be known, but the members of Congress know,” McKeon said. “I look forward to working with Elton this coming year in his final session.”
Gallegly’s decision opens the floodgates to a game of musical chairs where Republican lawmakers hold all the seats in a region that leans to the GOP.
With Gallegly out of the picture, insiders say Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, will run for Ventura’s open congressional seat.
The odd man out has been Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, who is termed out of the Assembly at the end of this year.
Whether Smyth makes a bid for the senate seat Strickland leaves behind might depend on whether the court upholds the newly redrawn senate district maps. If they’re not thrown out, Smyth would be pitted against incumbent Senate Democrat Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills.
“I still need to see what the courts rule this week, but I am giving it a serious look,” Smyth told SCVNews.com on Saturday.
Three Republicans and one Democrat have already announced their intent to seek Smyth’s Assembly seat: McKeon’s wife Patricia, onetime McKeon staffer Scott Wilk and former Smyth staffer Paul Strickland, all of Santa Clarita; and Democrat Edward Headington of the San Fernando Valley.