Powerful GOP lawmaker Darrell Issa dropped a bomb this week when he said he would not defend his House seat in November, but the California congressman may yet wind up on the midterm ballot.
The nine-term representative of California’s 49th District, who barely survived a bruising 2016 contest, is said to be weighing the possibility of running this fall in a nearby district – if the current incumbent, fellow Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, resigns.
“It’s not implausible, really … for him to potentially be a candidate in that district,” a source familiar with the Issa team's thinking told Fox News, confirming the discussions. “Darrell’s obviously well known.”
The Hill first reported on the internal discussions, quoting multiple sources.
'It’s unorthodox certainly.'
The stunning development, at first blush, appears to fly in the face of the multiple announcements Wednesday out of Capitol Hill – where the former House oversight committee chairman seemed to join the ever-growing list of senior Republicans calling it quits at the end of their current term.
Issa said in a written statement that “with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California's 49th District.”
He later said on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” that “it's a good time to go out on top,” given the state of the economy.
But Issa’s statement, as noted by The Hill, repeatedly made specific reference to leaving the 49th District – not necessarily Congress.
“While my service to California's 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me,” he said.
Issa used to represent parts of Hunter’s neighboring 50th District. And Hunter is facing various ethics investigations amid allegations he improperly used campaign funds for personal expenses.
In a written statement, however, Hunter told Fox News he absolutely is running for re-election.
"I am 100% running for reelection and with continued support from those in my district and the full endorsement of the Republican Party of San Diego County. I have run every race with full effort because my constituents deserve no less and this time is no different,” Hunter said.
He also told The Hill he has no plans to resign but said of Issa, “If I was to blow up in the air, then he would be running for it.”
Issa's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Issa narrowly won re-election in 2016, making him a clear target in 2018 for Democrats hoping to seize control of the House. Hunter’s 50th District could be friendlier territory.
The source told Fox News that whether Issa indeed takes the plunge and runs in the neighboring district depends on several factors, including Hunter’s situation and the willingness of the party brass to support an alternative like Issa.
“It’s unorthodox certainly,” the source said.
But the National Republican Congressional Committee – House Republicans’ campaign arm – so far is treating Issa’s decision as an exit from Congress. While Issa did not use the word “retirement” in his Wednesday press release, the NRCC did.
“His retirement is a great loss for the institution and the American people. We are truly grateful for his service," NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in a statement.