WASHINGTON – President Bush's selection of California Rep. Christopher Cox (search) as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission creates the likelihood of a second special House election later this year, both in regions long hospitable to Republicans.
Cox represents Orange County, an area of California synonymous with conservative politics. President Bush won the district last year with 58 percent of the vote, despite losing the state to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Cox must be confirmed by the Senate in his new post, and presumably would remain in Congress until cleared.
Portman represented Cincinnati in Congress for more than a decade before leaving to join the administration in late April. A primary election is scheduled for June 14 to select candidates to fill his seat, with a general election set for Aug. 2.
Among Republicans, Pat DeWine, son of one of the state's senators, and Bob McEwen, a former congressman, are among the contenders in a crowded field.
Democratic candidates include Charles Sanders, a former mayor of the village of Waynesville who lost to Portman four times, and Paul Hackett, a lawyer recently back from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Bush won the district with 64 percent of the vote last year.
"These are two safe Republican seats that will return Republicans to Congress," predicted Carl Forti, spokesman for the GOP campaign committee.
Bill Burton, spokesman at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, declined comment.
Republicans hold 231 seats in the House, to 201 for Democrats and one independent. Portman's seat is the sole vacancy.