Rep. Royce backs former Hill aide for retiring Miller's seat

Former Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) aide Lesli Gooch is getting another boost in her bid to keep her retiring former boss’s seat in GOP hands, adding the endorsement of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) on Friday. 

Royce joins Miller and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) in backing Gooch, who’s fighting for a top spot in the June top-two primary for the Democratic-leaning open seat. 

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“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Lesli Gooch and our delegation in the United States Congress to get things done for Californians. The Inland Empire needs Lesli Gooch’s strong conservative leadership in Congress to beat back the failed policies of Reid and Pelosi that are hurting our economy and crippling our national security,” Royce said in a statement. “Lesli is the only one running with the credentials, policy background, and real world experience necessary to effectively advocate on behalf of Inland Empire families.”

Democrats see the open seat as a top pick-up opportunity after failing to get a candidate through the top-two primary last year, allowing Miller to win reelection against a Republican, even as President Obama carried the district with 57 percent. 

But a poll for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week showed Democrats fear that scenario could emerge again. Their party is split, with the DCCC backing former Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar and EMILY’s List backing attorney Eloise Reyes Gomez. Former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) is running but without the backing of the national party. 

Former White House official Paul Chabot (R) led with 23 percent in the poll, with Democrats split — Aguilar took 15 percent with Baca and Gomez Reyes tied at 13 percent. Gooch was just at 6 percent, but the memo noted she has a large war chest and is just beginning to boost her name identification in the region, something Royce’s endorsement will only help to do.