- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

While the majority party typically hangs on as long as it can in Congress, in California, where redistricting has significantly altered the congressional map, two senior Republican House members in recent days said they’re calling it quits, with more reportedly mulling the option.

Rep. Wally Herger, a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means committee, announced Tuesday he will retire in January after serving his 13th term. And last week, Rep. Elton Gallegly, said he wouldn’t seek a 14th term.

There also has been widespread speculation that House GOP stalwarts Reps. Jerry Lewis and David Dreier — whose districts have been significantly changed due to redistricting and who face potentially difficult re-election efforts — also won’t run again. A Lewis spokesman said Wednesday the lawmaker “expects to make an announcement soon on his re-election plans.” A Dreier spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“My guess is realism is setting, especially on the Republican side, but also for Democrats who didn’t like the [new] lines, that the odds were against the lines being overturned” in court, said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

“And if you wait too long then you screw your party, so there’s probably some pressure from the money people and others — the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee] — to declare one way or another if you’re going to run.”

A new citizens commission in California produced a vastly different congressional map from what state lawmakers drew up in 2001 for the previous round of redistricting, which essentially preserved nearly every incumbent district and deleted just one Republican district.

The California Supreme Court in October rejected lawsuits challenging the congressional map, although litigation is pending in federal court.

Some Republicans say they have been targeted by the new map and that Democrats could net five or more seats out of the process, though some political analysts doubt a Democratic gain that large.

Republicans aren’t the only senior House members in California moving on. Democratic Reps. Lynn C. Woolsey, Bob Filner and Dennis A. Cardoza announced in 2011 they wouldn’t run again.

David Wasserman, who covered House races for the Cook Political Report, said as many as five more House members from both parties may decide not to run for re-election this year.

“I would say redistricting is a reason,” he said. “We expected to see a lot of retirements and now we’re seeing them.”

Not every retirement can be linked definitively to redistricting because some California congressmen escaped being thrust into drastically redrawn and unfamiliar districts.

Mr. Herger, 66, a staunch conservative whose new district would continue to be a safe Republican haven, appeared to have a clear path toward re-election.

“We want to spend more time with the grandkids,” said Mr. Herger, the Sacramento Bee reported. “We just think it’s time to begin spending more time with our family.”

But Mr. Gallegly faced a far more difficult scenario, as the new map essentially gave him two unappealing choices at staying in office: Run against fellow Republican Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon in the primary, or take his chance in a neighboring swing district that favors Democrats.

Mr. Gallegly, 67, in a prepared statement issued by his office last week, didn’t mention redistricting as a reason for stepping down, instead saying he and his wife decided “now was the right time to begin the next chapter in our lives.”

“There’s a lot of uncertainty and potential expense involved, and my guess is that several of these people in their 50s or 60s took a look at that and said, ‘I don’t need that trouble,’ ” Mr. Cain said.

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