Steven Cuevas / KPCC
Former state legislator Bob Dutton, who lost a bid for Congress in 2012 to fellow Republican Gary Miller, says Miller's retirement announcement puts potential GOP candidates at a disadvantage.
Inland Empire Republicans have been scrambling all week after veteran Congressman Gary Miller announced on Monday he would retire at the end of the year. What was already going to be a difficult election for the GOP became even more of a challenge without an incumbent on the ballot.
But two Republicans have decided to jump into the race.
Military and law enforcement veteran Paul Chabot announced Friday he will abandon his race for an Inland-area Assembly seat and run for Miller's seat.
Earlier this week, Chabot said he would only run if the Republican Party puts up the half-million dollars he says is needed to be competitive in the June 3 primary. It's unclear whether he will get that support, but Chabot did announce the endorsement of former GOP Congressman Jerry Lewis.
Chabot is a Lt. Commander in the Naval Reserve, a reserve San Bernardino Sheriff's deputy and founder of the Coalition for a Drug-Free California.
"It would take at least $500,000 at minimum, just looking at what the Democrats have already raised," Chabot said. He had not raised any money for his state campaign in 2013, according to the Secretary of State's website. In any event, those funds could not have been used for a congressional run.
Bob Dutton, the Republican runner-up to Miller in the 2012 race, is running for San Bernardino County Assessor. He said he briefly considered switching to the congressional race, but ultimately declined when the national party gave no signal it would invest heavily to keep the seat Republican.
"I'm disappointed they're willing to let that seat go," Dutton told KPCC Thursday. He said he is inclined to support Chabot. Dutton chided Miller for not announcing his retirement much earlier to allow a stronger field of candidates to explore running. The nomination period closes in early March.
Miller announced his retirement Monday. The district, which has a majority of Democratic voters and which supported President Obama in the 2012 election, is a top target for Democratic takeover.
Among the leading Democrats in the race, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar has more than $523,000 cash on hand and the party endorsement, while Eloise Gomez Reyes has $478,000 cash and the backing of Emily's List, which supports Democratic women candidates. Former Congressman Joe Baca and San Bernardino school board member Danny Tillman are also candidates, but have not raised significant funds.
Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, a Republican elected in 2010, said she's running for re-election and not jumping into the congressional race despite some local queries.