Congressman Gary Miller

Neil Nisperos and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Posted: 01/12/2012 12:13:10 PM PST

Rep. Jerry Lewis’ retirement announcement on Thursday prompted a a throng of local politicians to announce their plans to run for new congressional district seats in the region.

Those seats are the 31st Congressional District – which includes Redlands, San Bernardino, Colton and extends into Rancho Cucamonga – and the 8th Congressional District – which includes Highland and Crestline and sprawls eastward to Needles and then as far north as Bridgeport.

Both were created when a citizens statewide commission redrew California’s political boundaries last year.

With Lewis announcing he will not run for either district, the competition heated up Thursday to fill the vacuum for much of what will be his former political turf come next January.

Close to home, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democrat, announced Thursday morning that he is running for the 31st District seat.

Aguilar, a Fontana native, pointed to the value of his local ties and to the potential to solve problems, if only political bickering and gridlock could end.

“I was raised here. I grew up here, and I want to give back to the community that has given me so much opportunity,” he said. “I look around the Inland Empire, where unemployment is at 12.1 percent, and see so much that could be done if only Congress would stop fighting and start working.”

He could be be running against Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, who officially announced his intention Thursday to run for the 31st District seat.

Miller, who lives in Fullerton, would have faced a tough re-election campaign against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce in the new District 39 that encompasses cities in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

“You’re seeing us lose a lot of seniority in Washington this year,” Miller said. “”…I think I’m in the best position to do the best job to help California move forward and to make sure needed resources come back to the state.”

But more than one Republican has eyes for the 31st District seat.

State Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, announced interest in running for District 31 earlier this week.

With Lewis’ announcement on Thursday, Dutton said, “we’re definitely heading in that direction.” Dutton said he needed to talk to his wife and family about a potential bid for Congress, but a decision was close.

“There are a few more people I’d like to be able to talk to, but we’ll be able to make a decision fairly quickly,” Dutton said. “I’m seriously headed in that direction.”

The 8th District seat is also generating interest.

Gregg Imus, of Lake Arrowhead, is running for the 8th. Imus, a self-proclaimed Tea Party
San Bernardino District Attorney Michael A. Ramos.
Republican, said he was looking forward to running against Lewis.

“Everywhere I go in the area he’s named every building in the district after himself and built a lot of monuments to himself and that’s kind of the height of arrogance, if you ask me,” Imus said. “He has brought a lot of money back, but all these come with a lot of waste legislation, and congressmen like (Lewis) are why we are broke as a nation. They have spent us into oblivion.”

Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron said Lewis running would have affected his decision to continue in his bid for the 8th.

“I know it was a tough decision for him to make, but I think he’s done a great job for us and I look forward with my campaign being successful,” McEachron said.

After much speculation, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said in a statement Thursday that he will not be vying for Congress to replace Lewis, even through Lewis — who called his mentor — encouraged him to run.

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