U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, the longest serving congressional representative in Ventura County history, announced this morning that he will not seek re-election and will retire at the end of the current Congress.
In a prepared statement, Gallegly said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife Janice and their family and friends.
“Serving in Congress and representing my home for 25 years is the greatest experience I could have ever asked for," he said. "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, age 67, faced an almost impossible situation after California's new redistricting commission issued its new congressional map. Almost two thirds of his existing turf was placed into the redrawn 26th District, but that seat was simultaneously made very difficult for a conservative Republican like Gallegly, since Barack Obama won it under the new lines by a 56-41 margin. A small chunk of Gallegly's territory did wind up in a redder district, the 25th, but fellow Republican Rep. Buck McKeon already represents the lion's share of that seat and would have been a heavy favorite in the primary.
So, as I anticipated he would just the other day, Gallegly chose the only decent remaining option: retirement. Ironically, Gallegly tried to retire once before but, amazingly, failed. (A tough thing to fail at, no?) Back in 2006, he told the world he was quitting for health reasons, but it would have been too late for the GOP to replace him on the ballot. So the powers-that-be goaded him into seeking re-election (and claiming his health was, in fact, fine) lest they leave a seat completely uncontested and thus hand it to the Democrats. Ever since that notorious incident, Gallegly's stayed on retirement watch lists, so this announcement is, in a way, just the past catching up with itself.
With or without Gallegly, this seat was already one of the Democrats' top pick-up opportunities in the nation. Several Democrats have already declared: Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennet, Oxnard Harbor District President Jess Herrera, Moorpark Councilman David Pollock, retired longshoreman Zeke Ruelas, and businessman David Cruz Thayne. Others may yet join, though Bennett at this point is probably the frontrunner. Republicans have been waiting on Gallegly's decision, so no one else has joined the race yet, but the GOP isn't likely to go down without a fight. Potential names include Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, Moorpark City Councilman Keith Millhouse, and state Sen. Tony Strickland. While Team Blue is favored here, this will still be a race to watch.