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Issa retiring from Congress

Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaCalifornia Republicans seek turnout boost to avert midterm disaster Is Paul Ryan the latest sign of crumbling Republican Party? Lawmakers question FBI director on encryption MORE (R-Calif.) announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection this year, increasing Democrats’ chances of flipping his swing district in their favor.

Issa barely won reelection in 2016 by just over half a percentage point in a San Diego-area district that went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPaltry wage gains, rising deficits two key tax reform concerns Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report DNC sues Russia, Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over alleged election interference MORE by about 7 points.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve. Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California's 49th District,” Issa said in a statement.

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The former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman faced a tough path to reelection in an increasingly Democratic district. The lack of a 17-year incumbent will now make it easier for Democrats to win the district as they seek to win back the House this year.

Issa’s retirement offers yet another boon to House Democrats in California.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceRepublican lawmaker introduces new cyber deterrence bill House Dems add five candidates to ‘Red to Blue’ program Trump administration to brief senators on Syria strikes MORE (R-Calif.), who also represents a district won by Clinton, announced on Monday that he won’t seek reelection this year either.

Royce won reelection by 14 points even though Clinton carried his district by nearly 9 points, compared to Issa’s razor-thin margin.

“California Republicans clearly see the writing on the wall and realize that their party and its priorities are toxic to their reelection chances in 2018,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Drew Godinich.

The DCCC assigned staffers last year to work out of an office in Orange County to target western GOP incumbents as part of an effort to make inroads in what have long been traditional Republican strongholds.

Democrats need to flip 24 seats to win back the House majority.

Issa’s retirement is another data point in the signs of a possible Democratic wave in this year’s midterm elections.

His departure means House Republicans will have to defend at least 31 open seats this year due to retirements, resignations and lawmakers seeking other office. By contrast, House Democrats will only have 15 open seats so far.

Eight House GOP committee chairmen have decided to call it quits this election cycle, including three in the past week: Royce, House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterDems push Chao on aviation oversight after death on Southwest flight Dem calls for aviation safety hearing after death on Southwest flight Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans MORE (R-Pa.) and House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg HarperGregory (Gregg) Livingston HarperOvernight Health Care: Opioid distributors summoned before Congress | Judge sets trial date in massive opioid lawsuit | Senators press DOJ to stop blocking medical marijuana Opioid distributors to testify before House committee on their role in epidemic Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans MORE (R-Miss.).

Royce and Shuster, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTrump claims vindication after release of Comey memos Memos document Comey's interactions with Trump House GOP committee chairmen rip Comey over memos MORE (R-Va.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHensarling, Waters say Wells Fargo execs should be punished after record fine Americans are set for relief from an Obama-era financial rule Fed official defends moves on bank regulation, supervision MORE (R-Texas) and Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithGOP committee chair blasts agency over scathing data security report Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Internal emails show EPA working to limit agency's use of science MORE (R-Texas), were all bound by GOP rules limiting chairmen to three consecutive two-year terms.

Issa’s four years as Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman were, at times, rocky.

He frequently clashed with Democrats on the committee as he pursued holding then-Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderComey's book tour is all about 'truth' — but his FBI tenure, not so much James Comey and Andrew McCabe: You read, you decide Eric Holder headed to New Hampshire for high-profile event MORE and former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress over a gun-tracking program and alleged scrutiny of conservative groups, respectively.

Issa was also one of the wealthiest members of Congress due to his prior career leading an automobile security device business.

Without Issa on the ballot, the primary to nominate candidates for the district this year could be messy.

Under California’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. That means the general election could feature a race between two Democrats if a Republican fails to get as many votes.

At least four Democrats are running for the seat. They include retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate, who challenged Issa in 2016; Sara Jacobs, a former State Department and United Nations aide who has been endorsed by EMILY’s List; Navy veteran Paul Kerr; and environmental attorney Mike Levin.

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversFarenthold resigned ahead of ethics ruling against him GOP Rep. Dent will leave Congress in May Dems see Mueller firing as a red line on impeachment MORE (R-Ohio) predicted that the primary would be nastiest on the Democratic side.

"In the 49th district, Democrats are locked in what is fast becoming one of the bloodiest primaries in America. While Democrats fight with each other, Republicans will focus on fighting Democrats — and that's how we plan to win. We look forward to facing whoever limps out of the Democrats' battle royale: black and blue, and broke,” Stivers said.

--This report was updated at 11:55 a.m.