Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, whose upset win in 2012 ousted a long-serving member of Congress, will not seek re-election and will run instead for San Bernardino County Supervisor, her chief of staff said Tuesday.
The freshman representative's announcement will likely trigger a scramble among possible candidates to announce runs for the rare open congressional seat. The 35th district includes the west end of San Bernardino County and part of eastern Los Angeles County.
Former congressman Joe Baca, a six-term incumbent who lost to Negrete McLeod in 2012, has filed to run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Gary Miller in the Rancho Cucamonga area 31st Congressional District, which extends east to San Bernardino, Colton and Redlands. Baca said Tuesday he's still in that race, but will keep his options open.
Negrete McLeod won her runoff against Baca after she received a large infusion of cash from a political action committee financed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that targeted opponents of gun control measures.
Baca remains bitter about the 2012 race, telling The Hill that his detractors — including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — will target him no matter where he runs.
"What's the difference? They've conspired to work against me in one [election], they'd turn around and do the same in the other, right? Would you roll the dice and hope they wouldn't?
"Look at what we wound up with: Some bimbo who decided not to run again. ... Here we go again now with another New Yorker trying to tell us who's going to be the representative of the 31st. It's up to the people to decide."
Later on Tuesday, Baca apologized, telling The Hill:
“I wanted to apologize for the poor choice of words,” he said. “I was upset and disappointed that we have a person that’s not running again. To me [Negrete McLeod's retirement] was a disservice to the area.
“The people lost the representative. They want someone who’s got continuity. … I was just disappointed. That’s all it was.”
Baca has raised little money for his possible return to Washington, while the DCCC has endorsed Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar. Another Democrat, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, has the backing of Emily's List and had raised nearly as much as Aguilar to be competitive in the primary.
Ontario City Democratic Councilman Paul Vincent Avila, Green Party member Anthony Vieyra of Pomona and Scott Matthew Heydenfeldt are the declared candidates to succeed McLeod in the 35th District. The deadline for candidates to file to run for is March 10.
Negrete McLeod, 72, has a hefty campaign fund of $900,000 left over from donations she received during her years in the state legislature. Money given in state campaigns cannot be used in federal election campaigns, but it can be repurposed for local elections. Her federal campaign committee had just $102,000 cash on hand.
The first-term lawmaker has sponsored five pieces of legislation, most of them related to veterans. She experienced the frustration of a freshman member of the minority party in the House. None of her bills made it out of committee and only one got a hearing.
Alfonso Sanchez, who heads McLeod's congressional office, said she has pulled candidacy papers to run in San Bernardino County's 4th Supervisorial District, which includes Rancho Cucamonga and other cities in the east end of the Inland Empire.
She would face Assemblyman Curt Hagman in the supervisor race. Hagman is chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Party. Avila, the Ontario council member, also took out nomination papers for the supervisor race.