Calif. GOP House member says John Doolittle shouldn’t seek re-election
WASHINGTON (AP) — Political pressure on GOP Rep. John Doolittle grew Wednesday as a fellow California House Republican said it would be best if Doolittle didn’t run for re-election.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Republican campaign committee pointedly declined to endorse Doolittle for the GOP nomination, saying that decision was up to voters.
Doolittle, a nine-term conservative from Rocklin, is under Justice Department investigation in the influence-peddling probe involving jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His fundraising has slowed and he’s drawing Republican primary challengers amid mounting concerns that he would not be able to win re-election next year despite the fact his district is among the most conservative in California.
GOP Rep. John Campbell of Orange County became the first House member to say publicly Wednesday what other lawmakers and aides are saying privately — that Doolittle should step aside and not run for re-election.
“I am very concerned about the situation in that district and our ability to comfortably hold what is a safe Republican district,” Campbell said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“Certainly the polling shows that he’s in a difficult position and I do think it would be best if he didn’t seek re-election,” Campbell said.
Doolittle was defiant in a written statement responding to Campbell’s comments.
“I hope John Campbell never has to experience what Julie and I have been going through the past 3 and a quarter years,” he said. “If he ever does, he will truly understand how frustrating it can be for people to attack your honor and integrity.”
Earlier in the day Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who chairs the National Republican Campaign Committee, was asked at a press conference whether he wanted Doolittle to be his party’s nominee in California’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Sacramento to the Oregon border.
“I don’t make that decision. The voters in the 4th district make that,” said Cole.
Doolittle is facing two declared Republican opponents, one of whom — political newcomer Eric Egland — raised more money than the incumbent in the third quarter of this year. Other Republicans are waiting in the wings and have expressed interest in the race if Doolittle steps aside.
Doolittle has insisted he won’t drop out, and said in his statement that he has received local support for his re-election.
He barely won re-election last year against Democrat Charlie Brown, who’s seeking a rematch this year and is way ahead of Doolittle in fundraising, with more than $380,000 cash on hand to Doolittle’s $77,700.
Cole also declined to promise financial support to Doolittle, saying that because the committee is short on cash its decisions on who to help financially would have to be “ruthless.”
“I don’t have enough money to be generous and I’m going to put money where I think we can win,” Cole said. He added that he wasn’t suggesting Doolittle couldn’t win.
Doolittle has set up meetings with some fellow California GOP House members in coming days to discuss his situation.
The head of the California Republican House delegation, Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, offered words of support Wednesday.
“It’s up to John Doolittle and John Doolittle says he’s running for re-election,” Dreier said. “And obviously he’s got lots of challenges with which he’s trying to deal, but he’s a good, hardworking member and we’ll see what happens. It’s very early on.”
California’s primary is June 3, 2008, and the deadline for candidates to file for election is March 7, 2008. The general election is Nov. 4, 2008.