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Irvine Congressman John Campbell to retire

Republican Congressman John Campbell.
Republican Congressman John Campbell.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Five-term Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine says he's stepping down next year. 

Campbell came to Congress in 2005 to replace Chris Cox, who left to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. Campbell is a fiscal conservative from a primarily Republican district in Orange County.

In a statement released late Thursday, Campbell said he never intended "to be a career politician."

He told KRLA talk host Hugh Hewitt that twice a week flights between D.C. and California, along with long hours and constituent events every weekend, are exhausting. Campbell said he advised a West coast freshman lawmaker to try "Red Bull and Tylenol PM." He says it's "a very hard lifestyle when you're west of the Mississippi — when you're three time zones away." 

Campbell missed two weeks of votes in early June because of orthopedic issues. His staff says he'll be getting both hip and shoulder surgery in the near future.

Campbell is a typical "California Republican" — conservative on fiscal issues. But as the House has moved further to the right on social issues, GOP members like him are becoming extinct.

Campbell sits on the House Financial Services and Budget Committees and has sponsored legislation on fiscal, automobile, and housing related issues. He says voting for the bank bailout — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — was the toughest vote he ever cast. But he says he's convinced it "saved capitalism."

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who represents the nearby district of Huntington Beach, said the "more you got to know John Campbell, the more you liked him." Rohrabacher called Campbell "gutsy" when it came to cutting spending: "He was willing to cast the tough votes, even when the majority of his own party wasn't."

Campbell's term expires next year. He has nearly $400,000 in his campaign war chest which may sound like a lot, but other House members have more than $2.5 million in the bank for an election that's still a year away. Campbell barely survived the June 2012 primary, taking just over 51% of the vote. His chief rival was Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, a Korean-American Democrat.

Campbell said he has no plans to run for governor or other statewide office: "You need a 'D' after your name in this state."

Republican state Senator Mimi Walters has already announced she'll run to succeed Campbell.

There is also speculation that fellow California Republican Congressman Gary Miller might choose to run in Orange County. Redistricting pushed Miller into an Inland Empire district that's becoming more Democratic and Latino. Political analysts label Miller the most endangered Republican incumbent in the House. 

Miller had no comment on his own re-election plans, but thanked Campbell "for his service to the House and his constituents — many of whom I have previously represented." Miller represented south Orange County for ten years in his previous district. 

The 45th Congressional District is generally considered a safe seat for Republicans, though Democrats and independents make up more than half of registered voters there.