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Political piece seeks to pressure congressman's next move
| Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013
Tony Strickland

Tony Strickland

[KHTS] – With speculation rampant about what might be taking place in the runup to next November’s election, there are already rumors and potential moves afoot.

Some of the discussion has been spurred by a recent editorial penned by Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, which was published on Flash Report, addressing what one representative referred to as the “ever-churning political rumor mill” among Washington and Sacramento insiders.

Wilk’s opinion piece addresses an oft-repeated rumor that Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, plans to step down at the end of this term.

While McKeon has said through his spokeswoman that he has no intention of stepping down at this time, local GOP officials praised the piece as something “that needed to be said.”

Wilk, who co-chairs elections for the Assembly GOP Caucus, said he has a vested interest in who runs for the 25th Congressional District seat next year, which was his motivation for the editorial.

Depending on who decides to run, openings could be created that make the GOP, which already faces a Democratic supermajority in the state Assembly, more vulnerable.

“I see a probable domino effect if McKeon steps down and (former state Sen. Tony) Strickland tries to step over,” Wilk said.

One of his duties as the co-chair of the caucus is to recruit candidates for office, Wilk said.

A statement 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.”

Wilk’s piece was essentially asking McKeon to address the rumors and declare his intention because the fundraising and rallying for next November have already begun.

In the event that McKeon decides to not run again, Strickland indicated that he’s made “no secret” that he would have to “seriously consider” a run in the 25th Congressional District, not the 26th, as he’s already expressed interest.

Rep. Buck McKeon

Rep. Buck McKeon

“I think a lot of people are getting ahead of themselves, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to (McKeon),” Strickland said, adding that he has roots in both districts, and he 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.

“I just think Buck needs to decide what he’s going to do, and I don’t want to add to speculation,” he said.

“Obviously, I’m a fan of the chairman,” he added. “If he were to retire, I would take a look at the seat.”

Should that happen, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell would make a strong candidate to challenge for the 26th Congressional District seat held by Julia Brownley, Wilk said.

Brownley is a Democrat who beat Strickland by slightly more than 5 percent of the vote in the race for the seat previously held by Elton Gallegly, a Republican who held the recently redrawn  24th Congressional District seat.

A representative from Gorell’s office refused to comment on any potential moves for 2014 at this time, adding only that the assemblyman was aware of the rumors.

However, should the dominos fall that way and Gorell decided to run for the 26th, his seat in the 44th Assembly District would be up for grabs in what’s expected to be a “highly competitive” race, Wilk said.

Assemblyman Scott Wilk

Assemblyman Scott Wilk

One factor that could potentially make a run at the 26th appealing for Gorell, R-Camarillo, who served in Afghanistan and touts a score of 100 percent from the California Taxpayer’s Association, is that he faces a term limit in the Assembly.

Gorell has served since 2008, falling under previous Assembly rules that prompted Wilk’s predecessor, Cameron Smyth, to be termed out.

For his part, Smyth seemed to describe the piece as a sort of wake-up call to area Republicans.

“I think in a lot of ways, he said what needed to be said, particularly about the need for Republicans to not take this area for granted,” said Smyth, a Republican, citing mistakes the party made in Burbank and Glendale, which were once strong Republican areas.

“If we dont take these steps,” Smyth said, “these seats very much could be up for grabs sooner than later.”

Congress has no such limits, and McKeon would be running for his 12th term next November.

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.

Joe Messina, chairman of the local Republican assembly for the 38th District, said he encourages any effort to “take the veil off” how local politics work, supporting Wilk’s contention in the piece.

Messina mentioned concerns that have been expressed about McKeon’s fundraising activities, or an apparent lack thereof.

“When you look at what and how (McKeon) has raised money in the past,” Messina said, “we’re not there this time.”

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