McKeon Replacements

Candidates for the 25th Congressional District, from top left, David Bruce, Troy Castagna, Steve Knight, Lee Rogers, Navraj Singh, Tony Strickland and Evan Thomas.

By Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 03/23/14, 5:59 PM PDT |

When Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, ended the months of speculation about his future and announced his retirement this year, there was no shortage of candidates wanting to succeed him in the June 3 primary election.

The race has drawn two prominent Republicans — Sen. Steve Knight and former Sen. Tony Strickland — who have represented portions of the district in the state Legislature, as well as a physician who first ran against McKeon two years ago, a former test pilot, a pair of businessmen and one Libertarian.

While the district has been traditionally Republican, there have been signs of a recent shift in the demographics to the point where the Democratic National Committee is looking closely at possibly capturing the seat, said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book that tracks legislative races.

“The one common thing is that people are so angry at Congress that we are seeing these crowded fields of candidates,” Hoffenblum said.

Complicating the dynamics of the election is California’s new primary system where, if no candidate wins more than 50 percent, the top two vote getters face off in November regardless of party, instead of the top candidate from each party.

For Democrats, most of the attention is being given to Dr. Lee Rogers, who is making his second run for the seat.

Two years ago, against McKeon, he was able to capture 47 percent of the vote. With the demographic and voter shifts since then, he is being given a better opportunity, combined with the nonstop campaign he has had since the 2012 election.

“I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, having a target on your back,” said Rogers, 36, of Simi Valley, a surgeon at Valley Presbyterian Hospital. “There are a lot of things that are different in this district. For one, it’s one of 16 open seats in the country and I think there is a chance for Democrats here.”

McKeon’s retirement has helped solidify his supporters and made it easier to raise money.

But, he said, being a candidate is difficult.

“As a surgeon you have to stay on your toes,” Rogers said. “As a candidate, it’s even more so.”

Both Knight and Strickland believe they will be the candidate facing off against Rogers in the November general election.

“I would expect we will end up with one Republican and one Democrat,” Knight said, adding he believes he can best Strickland in the primary.

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