WASHINGTON | DANA WILKIE What's a guy gotta do?
November 20, 2006
This month's Democratic sweep of Congress
may have dampened the ambitions of some Republicans, but
not those of Rep. Darrell Issa.
The Vista Republican once again campaigned for the post
of House GOP policy chairman, a junior spot on the House
Republican leadership team that he aimed for
unsuccessfully earlier this year.
Again, his aim was off. When the votes were counted
Friday, Issa had lost his bid to Michigan's Thaddeus
McCotter, with whom Issa had exchanged some pretty testy
words as the pair campaigned for the post.
Before we get to that, let's first hand it to the
former car-alarm magnate for launching a campaign of some
For starters, Issa had his own campaign Web site,
www.gopleadership.org, where one could find an
entire page of policy positions and a list of House
supporters. He provided on-the-spot news on his
campaigning, updating the names of his supporters with a
regularity that would make The Associated Press proud, and
even providing a breakdown of those who had signed on in
the past 24 hours. Finally, he had his own campaign “team”
– a group of California Republicans who lobbied on his
behalf when the full House voted on its new leaders.
His vision for the Republican Policy Committee, which
helps shape the issues agenda for the House GOP, was to
“rally around our core principles,” which he described as
fiscal restraint, limited government, lower taxes and
individual responsibility. This agenda, he promised, would
give the “American people a better vision for the future
than Democrats have to offer.”
ENERGY AND MONEY
Issa played up his “energy and drive”; his
technological strengths; and his work as founder and
former CEO of Directed Electronics, the car-alarm company
perhaps best-known for its Viper alarm and perhaps just as
well-known for making Issa a millionaire many times over.
As of last count, he had assets worth at least $135.8
highlighted his successful drive to recall former
California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003. Think about it: If
you're the guy who was instrumental in tossing a sitting
Democratic governor from a blue state like California,
imagine what you might accomplish in a Congress just
seized by Democrats!
Issa, who spent in the neighborhood of $2 million of
his own money to fund the recall signature drive, had
planned to run to replace Davis. But tearfully, and under
what was believed to be tremendous pressure, he dropped
Now would you believe that the race for Policy
Committee chairman – surely the most obscure post we've
ever had to describe to those outside the Beltway –
actually could degenerate into nastiness?
It did. Issa, ever the competitor, lashed out rather
forcefully when he learned that McCotter was claiming he
had 106 supporters, although only about half wished to
have their names publicized. At that juncture, Issa
claimed to have 79 supporters, 46 of whom wanted to go
“We are still waiting to hear from Rep. McCotter's
imaginary friends,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told one
Hill newspaper. “Congressman McCotter's fuzzy math isn't
to be believed, and his perplexing claim is probably a
sign that his campaign has failed.”
Sheesh. Don't these guys still have to work together?
THE ONLY POLL THAT COUNTS
In the end, it turns out McCotter's friends weren't so
imaginary after all. He won 132 votes from his Republican
colleagues; Issa had 63. McCotter will succeed current
policy chairman Adam Putnam of Florida, who won the
Republican Conference chairmanship, a more senior spot on
the leadership team.
Odd how Issa's barbed rhetoric quickly grew
“I will continue to serve as a member of the Policy
Committee and look forward to working with Chairman
McCotter to help our conference develop new ideas for our
conference,” Issa said in a statement.
For now anyway, we won't know if Issa's “energy and
drive,” technological skills or business prowess might
have helped House Republicans as much as it helped
California's GOP. We do know that it may be too soon for
Issa to add “political instincts” to his résumé.
Dana Wilkie is a
Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and
a longtime observer of California politics and social