After Rep. Elton Gallegly announced in January that he would retire after this term, eliminating the possibility of a Republican incumbent vs. Republican incumbent primary in the 25th Congressional District where they both live, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon could have been forgiven if he thought he was now on Easy Street.
His new district had a Republican voter registration advantage double of that of his old (5 percentage points compared to 2.5 percentage points), and he never really had to break a sweat to win re-election in his old district. In five contests from 2002-2010, he never won by less than 16 points and his average margin of victory was 25 points.
But McKeon likely didn't anticipate a pesky Democratic opponent like Lee Rogers, the Simi Valley podiatrist. Rogers has raised enough money to send out four early mailers, all pounding away at McKeon on ethics issues, and he tells me his Oct. 15 finance report will show that he has enough in the bank to keep on pounding.
In a recent interview, McKeon referred to Rogers as "that doctor, or whatever he is," and described the Rogers campaign as "down-in-the-gutter politics." He said that Rogers is following a playbook written in 2006 by former White House chief of staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- "find a guy who's been in office for a long time and beat the crap out of him."
All that being the case, this won't be welcome news to McKeon: the liberal online fundraising group MoveOn.org announced this week it has added Rogers to the list of 30 candidates it is endorsing in House races across the country. That decision means that Rogers is likely to be the beneficiary of some online contributions from MoveOn members across the country, which would help sustain Rogers' surprisingly aggressive campaign.
The candidates, who are vying in the district that includes most of Simi Valley, will meet face-to-face for the first time (literally, as Rogers tells me he's never met the congressman) in a campaign forum Wednesday in Santa Clarita. It's possible that some sparks will fly.