Congressman Gary Miller

Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 03/12/2012 06:31:58 PM PDT

The California Republican Party has endorsed Rep. Gary Miller in what some observers are calling one of the most competitive local primary races on June 5.

Miller received the endorsement for the 31st Congressional District seat on Sunday at a party meeting in Burbank.

The longtime lawmaker is facing strong competition from state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, in the district that stretches from Upland through San Bernardino and into Redlands.

“I’m honored and pleased to receive the endorsement of the California Republican Party,” Miller said.

“This is a district we want to make sure we hold for Republicans.”

Dutton said he was not surprised by the endorsement. Voters include members from throughout the Golden State and not just District 31.

“I never did anticipate getting the blessing from the power brokers of D.C.,” said Dutton, the former GOP leader of the state Senate.

“I didn’t anticipate that. Anyway, that’s what this is all about … the reason they decided to give him incumbency status, and he doesn’t live in the district or represent any part of it, is because he is a sitting member of Congress.”

Miller said he was in the process of moving to Rancho Cucamonga after living for years in Diamond Bar. The lawmaker, who was first elected to the House in 1998, has previously represented cities mostly in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County.

One reason for the endorsement could be Miller’s seniority in the House, Claremont McKenna College political-science professor Jack Pitney said.

“Dutton would be a freshman, and particularly when the area has lost so much seniority with the departure of Jerry Lewis and David Dreier, that could have been a consideration for the party.”

Reps. Lewis and Dreier decided earlier this year to not seek re-election.

All political candidates in 2012 will be on one ballot, regardless of political affiliation. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election Nov. 6. The primary is the first election since the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission approved new district maps last summer.

The San Bernardino County Republican Party Central Committee did not recommend anyone to be endorsed in the 31st District.

Doug Johnson, fellow of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, said the race should prove to be hard- fought.

“From the moment Miller jumped in, Dutton knew it was going to be his local organization against Miller’s larger resources – and this doesn’t change that,” Johnson said.

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