Rep. Devin Nunes is encouraging Rep. Tom McClintock to run for reelection in California’s new 5th Congressional District, gifting a key political endorsement to his fellow Republican one day before resigning from Congress.
The newly configured district is anchored in the San Joaquin Valley and includes significant portions of Nunes’s existing 22nd Congressional District. Nunes will depart Congress effective 11:59 p.m. New Year’s Eve to become CEO of former President Donald Trump’s new social media venture. He wants McClintock, 65, to take his place in the redrawn northern Central Valley seat fashioned to elect Republicans.
“Tom has been a champion for the conservative movement for many years,” Nunes told the Washington Examiner on Friday. “He’s popular enough to run successfully anywhere in California, but I hope he continues to represent part of the San Joaquin Valley. He has my complete support.”
REDISTRICTING SCRAMBLES CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS
Under the lines just approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, McClintock is slated to shift from the current 4th Congressional District anchored in suburban Sacramento and run for reelection in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District. This seat also includes portions of suburban Sacramento but is less geographically compact, stretching eastern California from north of the state capital, hundreds of miles south to Death Valley.
Although the new 3rd District is rated R+8 and is drawn to elect Republicans, it is less reliably red than the new 5th District, rated R+17. That makes the 5th District more reliably red than the new 3rd District and more resistant to population and political trends that could see the new district become more Democratic and therefore more competitive over the next decade.
The new 5th District is considered an open seat. By moving there, McClintock would be less likely to face a strong Democratic challenger or be swept out of office if a blue wave develops in future elections (the 2022 midterm elections are shaping up as a potential GOP wave.) Accordingly, this seat could attract the interest of several ambitious Republicans, sparking a crowded primary.
In that scenario, Nunes’s preemptive endorsement of McClintock could be a huge asset and provide a crucial boost over other Republicans in the race should the seven-term congressman make the move.
Nunes, 48, is tight with Trump and allies with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents a southern San Joaquin Valley seat and is slated to be elected speaker if Republicans recapture the majority. And Nunes is a conservative media darling and a favorite of grassroots Republicans who have donated to his House campaigns in droves in recent years, appreciative of his outspoken defense of Trump and sharp criticism of the Russia investigation.
McClintock’s 2022 plans were unclear, although he has previously exhibited geographical flexibility to further his political career.
Before entering Congress, McClintock lived in Thousand Oaks and represented Southern California districts in the state Assembly and state Senate. He later moved north to suburban Sacramento and won election to the 4th Congressional District in 2008, encompassing the Sierra mountains from Truckee to Sequoia National Forest. The congressman’s wife, Lori, died unexpectedly in December, about one week before Christmas.
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Nunes, in his 10th term in the House, was the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee and on track to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 2023 had he remained in Congress and won reelection.
Nunes, who reported $11.8 million in his campaign account on Sept. 30, will become CEO of the Trump Media and Technology Group based in Palm Beach, Florida.