Miller backs aide as his successor in California

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A longtime staffer to Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) has jumped into the race to replace him — and Miller is backing her candidacy, giving the GOP a candidate to replace him in the district.

Lesli Gooch, who has been Miller's policy director and a Financial Services Committee staffer, announced her campaign Wednesday evening.

The race was already an uphill climb for the GOP even before Miller announced his retirement earlier this week. President Obama won it by 16 percentage points in 2012, and Miller only won reelection after a Democrat failed to make it past the top-two primary. 

"I have spent my career fighting for the residents of the 31st District in our nation's capital," Gooch said in a statement announcing her campaign. "My passion has always been finding effective and achievable solutions to the issues facing the citizens of the Inland Empire, where I grew up and my family resides."

"Lesli has spent the past 15 years on Capitol Hill fighting for San Bernardino County families," Miller said, praising his staffer. "As my Senior Policy Director, Lesli has worked tirelessly developing programs to ensure safe, decent, and affordable housing opportunities for Inland Empire families; securing funding and administrative victories to improve our streets and schools; and fighting to ensure Inland Empire small businesses thrive and create good paying jobs."

A trio of Democrats are running for the seat: Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D), attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes (D) and former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).