California Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) becomes the eleventh House member since Dec. 15 to announce retirement, and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) announced last night that he will resign from Congress at the end of 2014. Coburn’s move means that 36 Senate races will be contested this year.
At least Rep. Mckeon’s retirement is not a surprise. The House Armed Services Committee chairman yesterday confirmed and made formal the conventional wisdom that he would retire at the end of this current congressional term. The 75-year-old, 11-term congressman also indicated that his reaching the end of his term-limited period as the Armed Services Committee chair definitely played a role in his decision not to seek re-election.
McKeon’s move sets off what will be a very interesting June qualifying election. Already committing to run as Republicans are former state senator and 26th Congressional District nominee (2012) Tony Strickland, who is close to McKeon, and sitting state Sen. Steve Knight. California state senators represent about a quarter more people than do congressmen, so these particular state legislators begin the race with large political bases overlapping the congressional constituency.
The Democrats feature podiatrist Lee Rogers, the 2012 nominee who held Rep. McKeon to 55 percent of the vote. He announced early in 2013 that he would seek a re-match. Now, he is likely to have competition from his left.
In California, all candidates are placed on the same primary election ballot with the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advancing to the November general election. The June turnout will be all-important, as all of the candidates will be vying to place at least second. Voter registration in the 25th CD leans toward the Republicans 39 percent to 36 percent, so a Republican vs. Democrat general election would likely make the GOP candidate a slight initial favorite to win the race.
But, could two Republicans or a pair of Democrats advance to the general election? It is unlikely that, in a close district such as this, two members of the same party could qualify, and the chances of Democrats solely advancing are even more negligible. Even so, this June 3 election may be the most interesting in the entire 53-member congressional delegation.
The 25th CD begins in the Simi Valley area of California and stretches east to Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and part of Lancaster. Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012, 50-48 percent. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama nipped Sen. John McCain 49-48 percent. The race should be considered Lean Republican, at least in the early going.
On the Senate side, Coburn’s retirement will mean that a replacement special election in Oklahoma will occur on the regular 2014 election calendar to fill his seat.
Coburn says his battle with prostate cancer is not the reason he is leaving. Upon his original election in 2004, he pledged to only serve two terms. The decision means he will leave after 10 years of service. Previously, the senator served three terms in the House.
Speculation surrounds representatives Tom Cole (R-OK-4), James Lankford (R-OK-5), and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) as potential Senate candidates, as well as Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R). It is unlikely that Democrats will be particularly competitive in the Oklahoma 2014 election, so the eventual Republican nominee becomes a prohibitive general election favorite. The winner will serve the balance of Coburn’s final term, and then be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2016.