Darrell Issa retires from California’s 49th Congressional seat
This morning, Arab American Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista, CA) released the following statement:
“Two decades ago, when I stepped away from the business I’d built to enter public service, I never could have imagined that a long-shot bid for U.S. Senate would lead to 18 years in the House of Representatives and endless opportunities to make a meaningful impact.
From the first successful recall of a sitting Governor in California history, to establishing new and stronger standards for government accountability, to protecting the Internet from harmful regulation, and enacting the nation’s first open data standards, we attempted and achieved much in the service of our nation.
Together, we put an end to abusive Congressional earmarks, strengthened the Violence Against Women Act, empowered better oversight of the executive branch, and cleared the course for better intellectual property protections to stop the piracy of American ingenuity.
Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve. Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District.
I am forever grateful to the people of San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties for their support and affording me the honor of serving them all these years. Most humbling for me — and for anyone who represents this area — has been the special privilege of representing the Marines and Sailors of Camp Pendleton and their families. On countless occasions, and in every corner of the world I met them, I was inspired by their bravery and humbled by their sacrifice to keep us all safe from harm.
Representing you has been the privilege of a lifetime.
While my service to California’s 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me, advancing public policy where I believe I can make a true and lasting difference, and continuing the fight to make our incredible nation an even better place to call home.”
Republican Darrell Edward Issa, 64, was first elected Congressman representing San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties in November 2000 and was sworn into office in January 2001. His district presently covers the northern coastal areas of San Diego County, including cities such as Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, and Encinitas, as well as a small portion of southern Orange County. From January 2011 to January 2015, he served as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Issa’s first campaign for elected office was in 1998, when he sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate to run against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. He spent $10 million of his own money in his campaign, running against California State Treasurer Matt Fong, Congressman Frank Riggs, and three others.
Fong’s campaign raised $3 million from contributions and complained that Issa’s wealth made for an uneven playing field (Issa had only $400,000 in contributions from others). An Issa spokesman countered that the money was needed to compensate for Fong’s statewide name recognition.
Issa lost the primary election to Fong, 45% to 40%; Riggs got 10% of the vote. A San Francisco exit poll suggested large numbers of Asian-Americans, who typically vote in the Democratic Party primary, had crossed party lines to strategically vote for Fong.
Issa served as CEO of Directed Electronics, which he co-founded in 1982. It is currently one of the largest makers of automobile aftermarket security and convenience products in the United States. Issa has been named numerous times as the wealthiest currently serving member of Congress.
Issa, the second of six children, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Martha (née Bielfelt) and William Issa, who sold trucks and ground valves. His father was a Lebanese American of the Maronite Catholic faith and his mother is of German and Bohemian (Czech) descent. In 2006, he was one of four Arab-American members of Congress.
The family moved to the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cleveland Heights in the later years of his childhood. Many of his friends were Jewish, and Issa reportedly worked for a rabbi at one point. He became very familiar with Jewish culture.
In 1970, on his 17th birthday, Issa dropped out of high school and enlisted for three years in the Army. He became an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technician assigned to the 145th Ordnance Detachment. Trained to defuse bombs, Issa stated that his unit provided security for President Richard Nixon, sweeping stadiums for bombs prior to games in the 1971 World Series.
Issa received a hardship discharge from the Army in 1972 after his father suffered a heart attack, and earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.