Former California state Sen. Tony Strickland (R) is waiting on the sidelines in case there’s an opening in Congress.
The Republican congressional candidate is positioning himself to immediately run for Rep. Buck McKeon’s (R-CA) congressional seat if McKeon decides not to seek re-election. But he’s trying to do it without anyone noticing.
Here’s the background: In April, Strickland filed for a rematch against Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) in California’s 26th Congressional District. Strickland previously ran against Brownley in 2012 and lost 52 percent to 47 percent. But in December, Strickland for Congress quietly refiled to run in the 25th Congressional District, McKeon’s district. Rumors have been swirling over the past year about whether the 75-year-old chairman of the House Armed Services Committee will run for re-election, but he still hasn’t publicly made a decision.
Strickland’s campaign, when pressed, wants to make clear that none of this is by mistake. He meant to refile for the 25th District after initially filing to run in the 26th District.
“He’s not running in 26,” Strickland spokesman Jeff Burton told TPM. “If Chairman McKeon decides to retire then Tony would certainly consider running to replace him.”
Burton stressed that Strickland is “definitely” not running in the 26th Congressional District.
Publicly, Strickland is trying to stay in a quiet holding pattern. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) still lists Strickland as a candidate in the 26th Congressional District on its Young Guns page and didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment by TPM. Strickland’s campaign website also doesn’t offer much information on his candidacy. A nameplate reads “Tony Strickland for Congress” and there’s a “donate now” button below. There’s no mention of which district he’s running in in 2014 or much other information beyond that.
It’s understandable why Strickland might be crossing his fingers that McKeon’s district would suddenly open up for him. California’s 26th Congressional District leans Democratic and went for President Barack Obama both in the 2012 election (Obama got 54 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney’s 44 percent) and in the 2008 presidential election (Obama got 56 percent of the vote to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 41 percent). There’s also the fact that Strickland was soundly defeated when he ran for Congress in 2012. It wasn’t even close. Brownley won the race handily, 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. McKeon’s district indeed does appear to be greener pasture.
McKeon is aware of Strickland’s move, but isn’t budging on whether he plans to run for re-election or not.
“Mr. Strickland has decided that the 25th is the District he would like to run in, as it is more of his home district after this last re-districting, but has been clear that his running in the 25th is contingent upon Mr. McKeon deciding to retire,” McKeon spokesman Alissa McCurley said in an email to TPM. “Should the Congressman’s decision be to run again, Mr. Strickland will not continue his campaign.”
The irony of Strickland’s switch to the 26th District is that when he ran against Brownley in 2012 he repeatedly attacked her for moving to the 26th District to run for Congress. If Strickland is lucky, he might have to face that same criticism in 2014.