Darrell Issa beat several GOP candidates like a drum with a multi-million dollar primary campaign in 2020 to return to Congress. As the richest congressman, he had the money. He also had the name recognition.
Starting in 2002, he coasted to victory every two years without breaking, as politicos say, a sweat. His district included the southern part of staunchly Republican Orange County and coastal North San Diego County, which was traditionally Republican, of the moderate coastal variety.
But Issa retired after almost losing to a Democrat in 2016. His opponent, lawyer Doug Applegate, ran on his record as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who had briefly served in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. There was one more factor in that 2016 race — Donald J. Trump.
Issa had courageously supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the 2016 Republican nomination and had campaigned for Rubio in New Hampshire. When Rubio dropped out of the race, Issa was stuck like everyone else with Trump. Issa put on a good show, playing the faithful party man in supporting Trump despite knowing full well of Trump’s liabilities
Issa is anything but stupid. He played along because he was a good party man.
He had been such a faithful party man that a decade ago he demanded fellow Republican congressman Tom Tancredo from Colorado be expelled from the party. This wasn’t because of Tancredo’s racist views on immigration, or Tancredo’s questionable draft deferment during the Vietnam War for alleged mental illness. No, Issa demanded Tancredo be expelled for raising money for ultra-conservative candidates to run against incumbent Republican moderates — something Trump has now vowed to do.
Fast forward to Nov. 3, 2020. Issa ran for the empty seat in Congress created by Duncan Hunter after pleading guilty to stealing money from campaign funds. Hunter, who was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump, was scheduled to enter prison when a pardon arrived.
Issa easily won the old Hunter seat even as Trump lost the Presidency. This time, however, Trump didn’t drag Issa down to near-defeat like he did in 2016.
Now, however, Issa is in danger of losing his new congressional seat after he spent millions to win. As the only Republican member of Congress representing San Diego County, the danger is not at the ballot box. Instead it is in reapportionment, the every-decade requirement per the Constitution to draw legislative lines for congressional seats.
The problem this time for Issa is that the Trump administration royally screwed up the decennial U.S. Census. The official numbers for the new decade were due Dec. 31. But the report isn’t ready yet because Trump nativists like Stephen Miller demanded the Census count the number of undocumented immigrants so they could be excluded from the final total.
That, of course, was and is illegal and unconstitutional, but by demanding it, the Trump Administration screwed up the state population counts, along with help from the pandemic.
Then there is the exodus of people from California that has shrunk the traditional annual growth rate to the lowest since 1900. States like Arizona and Texas have grown relative to California and will likely be allocated more congressional seats. That means that unless Congress enlarges the 435-member House, California will probably lose at least one congressional seat.
California uses a non-partisan commission to redistrict congressional seats with no party in the majority. The result is that Issa, the good party man who had to retire because of Trump, is now in danger of losing his new seat when the dust settles on Trump’s Census debacle.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.