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Retirement causes ripples in race

Politics: Gallegly’s exit from Congress could bring Strickland, Smyth to run for new positions

Posted: January 10, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: January 10, 2012 1:30 a.m.

A Ventura County congressman’s announcement that he will not seek re-election could trigger a domino effect and change careers for at least two locally elected politicians.

Both Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, and Santa Clarita Valley Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, told The Signal separately Monday they will be holding serious talks about the future with their respective inner circles of friends and advisers.

“I plan on making my intentions clear in the very near future,” Strickland said when asked if he was going to run for the 26th Congressional District seat. His Senate seat takes in part of the Santa Clarita Valley.

U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, said Saturday he won’t seek re-election to the district he’s served since 1987.

Under the new electoral districts, his home falls just outside the 26th Congressional District into the district currently served by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, which touched off some speculation that Gallegly could go up against McKeon in the November race.

At least five Democrats have said they may run for the redrawn district.

“I’m putting things together,” Strickland said. “I plan on talking to my supporters and getting their feedback.

“I have a lot of my supporters telling me that’s where I should go,” he said, referring to the 26th Congressional District seat.

Rumors about Strickland running for the seat have been circulating within political circles since Saturday, when Gallegly announced he will not be running in the next federal election.

New maps approved last year by the state’s independent redistricting commission had placed the 67-year-old Gallegly in the same district as Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, fellow Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Strickland said he’s about a week away from making his announcement.

If he goes the way many local pundits are predicting and throws his hat in the race for the 26th Congressional District seat, Strickland would vacate his current seat as a senator in California’s 19th Senate District.

With Cameron Smyth forced to leave his 38th Assembly District seat because his term is up, many of the same pundits are wondering about his plans.

The 19th Senate District represents about 27 percent of Santa Clarita Valley residents.

Smyth said he’s still waiting for the final decision on the redistricting maps before he makes any decision or announcement.

The state Supreme Court is expected to review a petition drawn up to derail the “final maps” submitted by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

If the court upholds the petition, then the newly drawn redistricting maps are thrown out and lines currently in place since 2000 remain in place by default.

“If the referendum qualifies, then that could change everything,” Smyth said, adding Gallegly’s retirement announcement could “lead to a domino effect.

“I’m taking it very seriously,” he said. “My priority is my three kids.”

Campaigning in a district with a strong Democratic demographic such at the 19th Senate District would mean an aggressive and time-consuming campaign, Smyth noted.

“I promised my family I would do six years and that after the six years we would talk, as a family, about what direction I’m going to take,” he said.


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