Republican state Senate leader Dick Ackerman on Monday said he was dropping out of the race to fill the Orange County congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Christopher Cox, while fellow GOP state Sen. John Campbell has joined the contest.
Cox (R-Newport Beach), who beat 15 other Republicans in a primary to first gain the seat in 1988, has been nominated by President Bush to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ackerman, a lawyer from Irvine, said he wanted to focus on pressing state issues rather than taking on the rigors of a congressional campaign.
"Would I rather be campaigning full time rather than be involved in something that could change and impact Californians, like the special election and the budget?" he said.
Ackerman said that the entry into the race by Campbell (R-Irvine) was a "small factor" in his decision.
Ackerman, who must give up his legislative seat in 2008 because of term limits, said he wouldn't rule out running for another office.
Campbell originally planned to run for Ackerman's slot in the GOP Senate leadership, but when enough support failed to materialize, he decided to try for Congress.
"It seemed apparent people wanted me to run for Congress and didn't want me to run for [Senate] leader," said Campbell, who also served in the state Assembly and is a former owner of several car dealerships.
Former Assemblywoman Marilyn C. Brewer, a businesswoman, is also running for Cox's seat. Another potential candidate, former state legislator John Lewis, announced Monday he would not enter the race.
Another candidate reportedly considering a bid is former Rep. James Rogan, who led the House prosecution in President Clinton's impeachment. Rogan, who represented the Glendale area, has moved to Yorba Linda, in Orange County. He does not live in the district, but there is no residency requirement to run for Congress.
Rogan, who Campbell said was in Switzerland, could not be reached for comment. Campbell said he doesn't expect Rogan to get into the race -- he said he has exchanged voice mails with Rogan and didn't think he was interested in running.
The 48th Congressional District is one of the most Republican in the state, with GOP voters outnumbering Democrats 2 to 1.
The district stretches from Newport Beach to Dana Point and includes all or parts of Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Aliso Viejo and San Juan Capistrano.
If Cox is confirmed as SEC chairman, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will have 14 days to call a special election, which must be held 56 to 63 days later.
Voters would choose among all candidates, regardless of party. If no one wins a majority, a runoff between the two highest vote-getters will follow 56 days later.
Consideration of Cox's nomination by the U.S. Senate is not expected before late summer.