Darrell Issa kicks off his congressional bid at a press conference. / Photo by Megan Wood

This post originally appeared in the Sept. 28 Politics Report. Get the Politics Report delivered to your inbox.

Darrell Issa could not have rolled out his campaign for the 50th Congressional District better. He leaked it to generate national coverage. He got several rival candidates not only to drop out of the race but to show up at his announcement to endorse him effusively. And he got tons of coverage.

“Today I’m announcing that I will be, I will be the next congressman from the 50th Congressional District. I’m dedicated to do that because I believe that I have the history, the skills, the seniority, and the capability to hit the ground running, not just for this district, but for California,” he said.

It was such a big show, rival Carl DeMaio decided to troll it and host a press conference of his own to deride Issa as a quitter (Issa, of course, declined to run for re-election in the 49th Congressional District because, he said then, he wanted to retire). Our Megan Wood had an excellent dispatch from the scene.

There’s only one problem: Issa was not actually in the 50th Congressional District when he made the announcement about representing “this district.” Both he and DeMaio were rallying at El Cajon City Hall, which is located in the 53rd Congressional District. That’s the district currently represented by Rep. Susan Davis and the one for which they are not running. Had they gone just three blocks to the east, they would have been in the 50th.

DeMaio and Issa are already battling concerns that they don’t live in the district and aren’t familiar with it. In an open letter, state Sen. Brian Jones, who’s also running, trolled them both with an offer to give them a tour.

We asked Barry Jantz, a former La Mesa city councilman and pundit of the parts, whether the carpetbagging drag will have much effect.

“It only matters if there’s someone who has enough money to make it matter,” Jantz said. “It’s maybe not the first thing you campaign on but if Jones has enough money to message on it, that’s always effective.”

The GOP nightmare scenario: Jantz said it is very much on locals’ minds that the three Republicans not named Duncan Hunter could split up the vote and leave Hunter in position to make the runoff election against Democrat Ammar Campa Najjar.

There was one other hitch in Issa’s launch: Matt Rahn, a Temecula city councilman who had also announced his intention to run for the seat, was supposed to be at the event but he couldn’t make it through traffic.  Issa addressed the absence and complained about the state of San Diego freeways. “So it’s no surprise that to get from the north part of this district in Temecula down to here takes longer than it should,” he said.

By here, he of course meant the 53rd Congressional District, not the 50th.

  • Modern campaigning is very much this weird dance between projecting power and strength but then also trying to terrify your supporters into giving you more money. DeMaio’s last three email subject lines demonstrate he’s really focused on the latter these days: “a crushing blow” “I’m worried” “Have you given up?”
  • One of the things Issa and his supporters at the press conference said repeatedly is that, if he is elected, he will have seniority in the House of Representatives and that would be an immediate benefit for the district. We poked around a bit to see if that was true and it is. Two experts confirmed for us that if Issa went back to Congress, his experience from before would carry over and he would indeed be among the most senior of Republicans in the House.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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