‘Johnny, We Hardly Noticed Ye’: Campbell Rouses Himself to Leave Congress

John Campbell with Paul Ryan

John Campbell is retiring from Congress, pleasing both parties. Here, his very presence causes Rep. Paul Ryan to lose focus.

[UPDATE ABOUT WHO WILL SUCCEED CAMPBELL: Fuhgeddaboudit, Mimi and everyone else.  Scott Lay reminds us today that Gary Miller could easily move from his Democratic leaning district in CA-31 to CA-45.  Not only could he get the institutional party behind them, crushing Walters or Wagner or anyone else like a bug, but he already represented many of the voters in this district half a year ago!  Remember, his district that came through Whittier and Rowland Heights and Diamond Bar through Brea and Yorba Linda then crossed through the forest and the canyons and included populous Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita.  I think that he’d be crazy not want to move — he can choose between Anaheim Hills or RSM/MV/Coto, and if he moves he’d win.  That’s what I get for forgetting to include “former Congressmembers from the area” in my list of possibilities!]

[UPDATE 2:  The Flash Report’s John Fleischman says that Gary Miller told him this morning that he does not plan to run.  I think that Gary Miller is probably going to think about this much more deeply and change his mind before long!  But if he doesn’t, then my work here (and your time as a reader) will not have been wasted.]

Rep. John Campbell represents some pretty heady territory for a politician.  His spaniel-head-shaped 45th Congressional District stretches from almost Costa Mesa to Anaheim Hills and east through the Canyons, Mission Viejo, and Lake Forest — a place of, among other things, a lot of money.  (He lost Newport Beach in redistricting and I would not be surprised if the wealth of his district went up!)  And yet, among our county’s awfully colorful set of U.S. House members, he generally seems like sort of an afterthought: a reliably conservative vote in a reliably Republican district, but in no way a bombthrower like Dana Rohrabacher, a party insider like Ed Royce, or — like Darrell Issa — both.   Among Democratic members of the County caucus, Loretta Sanchez outshines him on the national stage; so, most likely, do half-in-the-county freshman Alan Lowenthal, and 5% in the county Linda Sanchez.

What do they have that he doesn’t have?  They’re energetic.  (Well, maybe not Rohrabacher, partly for pharmacological  reasons, but what he lacks in energy he makes up in inspired lunacy.)  Campbell is just sort of boring, easily the least interesting OC Congresscritter to write about.  Even the crazy scandal-mongering he tries — doubting that Obama was born in the U.S., voting (with only 14 other GOP reps) against repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” despite the recommendation of the military brass — isn’t that interesting.  It seems like a pale imitation of what Darrell Issa could come up with right out of a deep sleep if you woke him up in the middle of the night — something, incidentally, that I don’t recommend, because he seems like the type to sleep with an automatic weapon in each hand.  My Republican informants tell me that the problem is that Campbell is lazy and just not that interested in being a politician.  (He’s a car dealer.  That’s much more to his taste.)  So he’s leaving Congress at the end of this term.

Democrats are happy to see him go because politically he’s a caveman; Republicans are happy because he’s not a leader among cavemen — in a district that could easily support someone truly and floridly nuts.  He’s just sort of inert, uninteresting.

But the 45th Congressional District?  Now that is about to get really interesting.

OC Districts -- CD 45

Just look at those floppy ears! (Note: I’ve named the OC districts like constellations to better remember their shapes.) There is an awful lot of conservative here between Yorba Linda and Newport Beach!

How does one even start to handicap a race like this?  [Note: See update.  The best way to start would have been to remember that Rep. Gary Miller could move down into this much more hospitable territory.  So the following analysis pretty much applies only if he somehow doesn’t.]  Well, I guess we have to take a look at who might want to catapult into the DC spotlight and what it is it looked like they were going to do before this happened.  Where are we going to find people like that?

Well, how about:

– Board of Supervisors

– State Senate

– State Assembly

– State officers

– Ambitious people from City Council

just for a start?  Current and former and aspirants, in fact!


The district is shared fairly equally between Todd Spitzer and Pat Bates on the Board of Supes.  (As it’s Spitzer’s, that means that it was until recently Bill Campbell‘s.)  Spitzer has supposedly had his eyes on the OC District Attorney’s Office — hey, any chance we could get a Democrat in there to clean house? — and Bates has been listed as a probable candidate for Senate District 36 against former Assemblyman Martin Garrick.

Within the district, Spitzer represents Irvine, Tustin, North Tustin, Orange, Villa Park, and Anaheim Hills, plus the eastern unincorporated areas.  Bates represents Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, and unincorporated Coto de Caza, Ladera Ranch, Las Flores, and Wagon Wheel.  She doesn’t quite live in the district — unless she’s recently moved, she’s in Laguna Niguel — but for a Congressional race she doesn’t have to live in the district.

State Senate:

The obvious suspect here is Mimi Walters, who may (but doesn’t have to) move to Irvine again if she wants to live in the district that she largely represents.  I’ve lost track by now of where she claims to live, but I think that it’s still Laguna Niguel — which is in Darrell Issa’s Rohrabacher’s district.  Of course, if someone from outside of the district could win, maybe Mark Wyland would be interested.  So might Tom Harman, who represented much of this district in the State Senate.  Among Democrats, Walters’s 2012 opponent Steve Young might stand a chance against a divided Republican field.  (Or, if enough Republicans grab for this brass ring, he might be in decent shape to run for Supervisor.)  Finally, with Anaheim Hills as part of the district, combined with his moderate record, could Lou Correa consider the race?  He’s not doing anything better next year.


Here’s an interesting name to toss into the mix at the outset: former Assemblyman from not too far away Scott Baugh!  Baaaaugh-hahahaha! He might be more popular than any of the three who might try to lay claim to the area: Diane Harkey from the south (roughly the same as Bates’s territory) who also lives in Issa’s district and who is a rumored candidate for the Board of Equalization — as is Bates; Don Wagner from the north (roughly the same as Spitzer’s territory); and Alan Mansoor, who doesn’t actually represent any of the area but may be pissed off at how the OC GOP is scuttling his interest in the Supervisor’s race against Michelle Steel.  (Anyway, he may have the easiest commute into both parts of the district.)  [Update: Some suspect that Steel might run herself.]

Statewide Races:

From Orange County?  Are you kidding?  Although if State Treasurer  and”Friend of the County” Bill Lockyer decided not to entirely retire, he’s a Democrat who could probably run quite well here.  And he’s been known to raise a fair bit of money.  Start with a bruising Republican primary, and … who knows?

Oh, and since we’re looking at aspiring candidates as well as successful ones, is this where I should mention last year’s U.S. Senate candidate Orly Taitz ?  Yes, might as well.

Ambitious City Council Members:

This is where the floodgates could truly empty if people saw a chance to vault up several steps.  A couple of impressive Democrats in the area have already tried moving up, of course: Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang of Irvine.  This is a good chance to point out that if only two prominent Democrats were to run while six or ten or fifteen prominent Republicans did, we could conceivably see both of them make it into the Top Two.  Just saying.

Thankfully, Costa Mesa is not quite in the district — though would that really stop the likes of Jim Righeimer? — but lots of Republicans in the area’s cities might have an eye out.  Stephen Choi of Irvine could seek a rematch against Wagner and Tustin’s Jerry Amante.  Deb Pauly could try to be the official extreme candidate in a wide field (if Taitz stands down.)  Carolyn Cavecche from Orange?  And egads — you look down at Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita and you see no shortage of hungry and ambitious types who aren’t all that far removed from the top of the Republican pack.

Come on, people, this is Congress!  It has no term limits!  Whoever is elected might be there for the next couple of decades!  How can someone like Steve Baric or Paul Glaab look at this chance and say “it’s all right, I’ll just never make it to DC, no big deal.”  IT’S NOW OR NEVER, GUYS!


All right: who do I think will really run?

If Todd Spitzer isn’t pretty sure that he’ll beat Susan Kang Schroeder (is she still Schroeder?) and whoever else for the DA’s race, I think that he won’t be able to pass this up.

Mimi Walters doesn’t really have anything better to do.  She’s not going to beat Issa for his seat.  (Correction: that would be Rohrabacher.  Hmmm, maybe she could take him!)  I think that she will use her “Irvine” “residency ” for credibility and go for it.

Don Wagner is supposedly waiting to take over the Senate seat Walters currently occupies.  But especially if Spitzer doesn’t run, and especially if Bates runs for her local Senate Seat — as I recall, Diane Harkey is possible competition there, though — I’d bet that Wagner gambles that he can can beat Walters head to head — and, if he loses, he’d just run for her vacated seat.

Orly Taitz?  Seriously, how could she pass this up, with a chance to win in a divided field?  (I think that her doing so keeps Deb Pauly out of the race.  Even she can’t out-batshit Orly.)

Jerry Amante?  If the field looks right, he might think it’s worth a try.

Steven Choi?  He’d stack up pretty well in this field as the only non-white.

Let’s stop there.  If you’ve got six Republicans dividing up the 60% or so of the primary votes that leans their way, you could easily have none of them topping 15%.  (There will be lots of polls saying that their candidate is a lock — but they’ll all contradict each other.  This would be a nasty primary to poll.)  If so, you could imagine two Democrats coming in — ones with different constituencies, let’s say Correa and Krom — and they could have a very friendly a mutually supportive race among themselves, holding their own debates, and potentially both make it into the top two.

If that happened, a mirror image to the Miller-Dutton runoff in CA-31 last year, I’d surely endorse Krom — but if Lou made it into Congress from this area I’d still be tickled pink.  This would potentially be a district that he could defend — and he’s probably as good of a representative as one could find for it from the Democratic perspective.  (I disagree with him a lot, but he’s not poisonous, unlike some.)

The situation is that there are lots of potentially competitive Republicans for this district — and not many Democrats.  If a Republican wins, they are probably there for life — which means that any ambitious Republican should seriously hesitate to sit this one out.

Democrats, by contrast, could seriously field and run just two serious candidates — yes, Republicans could run a third and fourth one with “Democrat” after their name, but they’re not going to fool the voters — and so they could win.  (Or, if Taitz somehow made the top two — and in the above field it’s not totally impossible — then they’d win anyway.  Scott Baugh will campaign for the Democrat.)

And if that happens, something very strange will happen: for the first time in a long time, I will be thankful for Abel Maldonado, whose “Top Two” initiative will have made this possible.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)