Exclusive: Issa mulls running in neighboring district

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who said Wednesday he is not seeking reelection in California’s 49th District, has been discussing with colleagues the possibility of running in a neighboring San Diego district if embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) resigns, multiple sources told The Hill.

Some of these discussions happened as recently as Wednesday, the day Issa announced he would not be running for reelection in his coastal Southern California district after 17 years in the House.

Most of Washington took that to mean Issa, the former Oversight Committee chairman and Congress’s wealthiest member, was leaving Capitol Hill for good.

But in his statement, Issa never specifically said he was retiring from Congress.

“[W]ith the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District,” Issa said.

Later he added: “While my service to California’s 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me, advancing public policy where I believe I can make a true and lasting difference, and continuing the fight to make our incredible nation an even better place to call home.”

The specificity of the statement caught the attention of some California Republicans, who have been hearing rumors of the Issa plan for months. Before the 2010 redistricting, Issa represented some areas of Hunter’s neighboring 50th congressional district.

“The wording of his statement — specifically referring to his district number a couple of times — makes some people believe he left things open to run for Hunter’s seat if he resigns,” one California GOP source told The Hill.

An Issa spokesman did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Federal law doesn’t require a candidate to live in a district in order to run to represent it.

Hunter, who has been dogged by federal and congressional ethics investigations, said he would not put it past Issa to seek his seat if something bad were to happen to him. Still, Hunter said he had no plans to resign this cycle and had not heard about discussions or rumors of Issa running for his seat.

“If I was to blow up in the air, then he would be running for it. If I was to blow up, then he would run for the seat,” Hunter told The Hill on Thursday, just off the House floor.

“If I blow up, yes. Why wouldn’t he run for my seat if I was to blow up in the air?”

Issa was facing increasingly difficult odds in hanging onto his current seat. He beat Democrat Doug Applegate by 1,621 votes in 2016, and some Republicans have been warning of a possible Democratic wave coming in 2018.

Hunter’s seat, east of Issa’s, is more conservative and would be easier for Republicans to hang on to. President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Hunter’s district by a 15-point margin.

But Hunter, a quirky, sometimes controversial Marine Corps reservist perhaps best known for vaping during a congressional hearing, has faced multiple ethics investigations. That’s raised questions about whether he might be forced to resign from Congress this cycle.

Last year, FBI agents searched the offices of Hunter’s campaign treasurer and seized evidence in an investigation into whether his campaign misused campaign funds. Hunter’s campaign spent more than $1,300 in video game purchases, something he blamed on his son, as well as other funds for airfare for the family rabbit and his children’s private school tuition.

On Wednesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a business in Hunter’s district received a subpoena in December related to the federal investigation. Hunter told reporters Thursday that he had not personally received a subpoena related to the matter.