“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve,” Issa said in a statement. “Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.”
Issa, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, narrowly won his re-election race against Democrat Doug Applegate in November 2016 by just 1,621 votes. It was Issa’s first competitive race in more than 15 years.
Applegate has already announced plans to run for Issa’s seat in 2018.
Issa is the second California Republican to announce his retirement this week, joining Rep. Ed Royce. Both were considered among the party’s most endangered members and top targets for potential Democratic pickups in 2018. Democrat Hillary Clinton won their districts in the 2016 presidential election.
“Secretary Clinton won this district by a huge margin in 2016, and the cohort of strong Democratic challengers, unprecedented grassroots activism, and historic investment by the DCCC in Southern California means we are in a strong position to elect a Democrat to the 49th District this fall,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Drew Godinich.
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, noted the multiple candidates Democrats have running in Issa’s district, saying it’s “fast becoming one of the bloodiest primaries in America.”
“While Democrats fight with each other, Republicans will focus on fighting Democrats ― and that’s how we plan to win,” he said. “We look forward to facing whoever limps out of the Democrats’ battle royale: black and blue, and broke.”
As the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa gained a reputation for being a fierce critic of President Barack Obama ― going after the administration on the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack, the IRS and the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal.
Issa’s district has changed considerably over the years, becoming more diverse and less conservative. In an attempt to appeal to his new voting base, the one-time Obama antagonist sent out a mailer last cycle touting praise from the former president.
In recent months, at least 30 House Republicans have announced they will leave Congress, according to CNN. Several Senate Republicans have also announced their plans to retire, including Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.).
This story was updated with reaction to Issa’s retirement.