In a surprise announcement, Representative Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced on Monday he would not seek election to a fourteenth term in Congress. The conservative Royce has represented North Orange County in the House of Representatives for nearly 26 years.
Royce is serving his final term as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In his statement, Royce said:
“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation, including: the brutal, corrupt and dangerous regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran, Vladimir Putin’s continued efforts to weaponize information to fracture western democracies, and growing terrorist threats in Africa and Central Asia. With this in mind, and with the support of my wife Marie, I have decided not to seek re-election in November.”
Royce decision scrambles the campaign dynamic in the 39th Congressional District. The GOP registration advantage in CD39 has been narrowing in recent years, now standing at 1.7%; Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 51% to 43% in the district. Royce is an indefatigable campaigner and fund-raiser and was a solid bet to win re-election, despite attracting a gaggle of Democratic opponents who have been raising significant amounts of cash nationwide from angry Democrats.
An open congressional seat is a rare thing in Orange County, and Royce’s announcement is already having a ripple effect on other political contests. Yesterday, former Assemblywoman and Royce staffer Young Kim announced she was ending her campaign for 4th District Supervisor to run for CD39 – with the endorsement of Royce:
Young Kim announced this evening that she will run for Congress in the 39th district, with the support of current Representative Ed Royce.
“I pledge to continue the service-oriented and dedicated representation that Ed Royce is known for,” said Young Kim. “The 39th district is vibrant, diverse and spread over three counties. I have worked with Rep. Royce in all the communities in the district and understand the issues and challenges faced by our residents.
“In Congress, I will focus on policies that provide economic opportunities for the people in our district – good jobs, thriving businesses and access to the finest health care and educational opportunities in our nation. I will continue Congressman Royce’s work to improve our relations with other nations and to keep our country safe and secure,” Kim concluded.
30-year old La Mirada Councilman Andrew Sarega, a relative unknown who apparently retired on disability from the Newport Beach Police Deaprtment, also announced he will run and promised to spend $200,000 of his own money.
Other potential GOP candidates include state Senator Janet Nguyen, former state Sen. Bob Huff, Assemblyman Philip Chen and former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang (who is also considering running on the replacement ballot in the upcoming recall election against state Sen. Josh Newman).
There has been speculation former Assemblyman and Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh, who aspires to Congress, might run. When asked to comment, Baugh, who lives in Huntington Beach, said he has no plans to run in CD39.
4th District Supervisor Shawn Nelson and 2nd District Supervisor Michelle Steel are two more possible candidates. Nelson, who lives in CD39, briefly declared himself a candidate for Congress during the post-2010 re-districting when a map with a political amendable open seat was created. Huntington Beach resident Steel harbors ambitions of running for Congress in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s seat in the event of his retirement, but could run in CD39 since district residency isn’t a requirement.
The #MeToo controversy could play a role in the race: Erik Taylor, the campaign manager of Democrat Phil Janowicz, was forced to resign over allegations of sexual harassment during his stint as executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Spill Over Into Other Races
Royce’s retirement has dramatically altered the complexion of the race for the 4th Supervisor District, where Supervisor Nelson being forced out by term limits. Republican Young Kim was considered a front-runner in that race, and her departure for the CD39 contest works to the benefit of La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw, the other GOP candidate in that race. Barring the entry of another significant Republican candidate, Kim’s exit allows the OC GOP to rally around Shaw early in order to stave off the candidacy Democrat Joe Kerr.
Kerr was the long-time head of the Orange County firefighters union and has strong union support. There is another Democrat in the race: La Habra Councilwoman Rose Espinoza. Cynthia Aguirre, a member of the La Habra City School District Board of Education, filed candidacy papers last year but her campaign has shown no sign of life.