Rep. Tom McClintock, the outspoken conservative who could play a major role in immigration policy next year if Republicans control the House, will seek reelection in a newly drawn congressional district that largely covers territory south of his current seat.
The new 5th Congressional District captures parts of Modesto and Fresno along with the western Sierra Nevada, combining parts of districts currently held by McClintock and former Rep. Devin Nunes.
It is staunchly Republican: Voters there would have backed former President Donald Trump in 2020 with a 12% margin of victory, according to several election-tracking organizations, a strong signal they’re likely to favor a Republican candidate in the 2022 midterms.
Nunes, a Republican, resigned from his seat this week to lead former President Donald Trump’s social media venture. On the way out, he backed McClintock for the 5th Congressional District.
“Tom has been a champion for the conservative movement for many years,” Nunes told the Washington Examiner last week. “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.”
McClintock, 65, an Elk Grove Republican, is seeking an eighth term. He won what was expected to be a close race in 2020 over entrepreneur Brynne Kennedy, a Democrat, by 11 points. His wife Lori died last month. A source confirmed the decision to run in the new 5th district to The Sacramento Bee.
McClintock been a supporter of Trump, though in 2016 he initially backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primary.
During the House Judiciary Committee’s 2019 impeachment hearings, he was adamant Democrats were overly eager to embarrass Trump. “My Democratic colleagues have been searching for a pretext for this impeachment since before the president was sworn in,” he said.
Several Republican hopefuls were on their toes, waiting to hear where McClintock would decide to run in order to decide where they might launch their campaigns.
McClintock could have opted to run in the 3rd district to the east, which runs against the Nevada border and holds much of the district he represents now. But Trump would only have won by two percentage points there in 2020, and the district seems like it will get bluer over time, said Matt Rexroad, a Republican consultant.
“We’re seeing a lot of people from the Bay Area move up into the areas around Lake Tahoe,” Rexroad told The Sacramento Bee last month. “They’re changing the politics of Nevada County and some of those other areas.”
Democrat Dr. Kermit Jones, a lawyer who announced his intent to challenge McClintock this fall, is running in the 3rd district. Now, he likely will see a sea of new Republican competitors.
Immediately following McClintock’s decision, State Sen. Andreas Borgeas — who launched an exploratory committee for this election and for the probable special election to fill Nunes’ vacancy — dropped his bid for both.
“In light of Congressman McClintock’s decision to run in CD5, I intend to suspend my exploratory committee for Congress,” he said. “My family and I have been honored by the overwhelming support we have received over the last weeks urging me to pursue representing our community in Washington.”
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a Republican who challenged Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election, previously speculated that McClintock would run in the 5th congressional district and said that he would, as a result, likely run in the 3rd district.
After learning of McClintock’s decision, Kiley made that campaign announcement official.
Omar Navarro, a Republican who has repeatedly run against Rep. Maxine Waters, shifted his social media accounts to declare for the 3rd district after having filed for the 5th with the Federal Election Commission.
If McClintock wins this year, and Republicans take control of the House–which analysts see as a good possibility–he’d be in line to become one of the House’s most important players on immigration.
He’s currently the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration and citizenship subcommittee, and if the GOP takes control, he’d presumably be in line to chair the panel.
The subcommittee, now chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, holds hearings and writes legislation on issues such as border security, immigration reform and admission of refugees.
McClintock has been a consistent conservative, as a judiciary committee member, has had a forum and a vote on some of Congress’ most controversial legislation.
Last year, the Democratic-run committee voted to study reparations for African Americans who ancestors endured slavery.
McClintock was an outspoken opponent. “It’s designed to reach into the dead past, revive its conflicts and then reintroduce them into our age,” he said. “I think all Americans of goodwill regardless of their race have had enough of this nonsense. Please stop tearing this country apart.”
He’s also been a leading congressional critic of Covid restrictions. At one point he protested that California Gov. Gavin Newsom was imposing restrictions that were reminiscent of the “mass hysteria” of the Salem witch trials, French Revolution and communist scares of the 1950s.