When Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) announced he would not seek reelection, he set off a battle among Republicans hoping to succeed him. (March 28, 2014)

By Jean Merl
March 28, 2014, 6:44 p.m.

Four Democrats have been battling for months over who was best suited to challenge Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) for his Inland Empire congressional seat.

But when Miller announced in February that he wouldn’t seek another term, he inadvertently laid the groundwork for a fight within his own party.

The battle escalated Friday between Lesli Gooch, a longtime former Miller aide who has his endorsement, and Paul Chabot, a military officer/businessman.

The Gooch campaign issued a news release announcing her endorsement by the San Bernardino County Republican Party.

“We must protect California’s 31st District and keep it out of the hands of Nancy Pelosi,” the GOP’s county chairman, Assemblyman Curt Hagman of Chino Hills, said in a statement issued by the Gooch campaign.

“Lesli Gooch has quickly proven. .. she has the experience and a strong campaign organization that will defeat the Democrats in November,” Hagman added.

Hours later, Chabot’s campaign issued a “Dear Friends” email declaring “Gooch should withdraw from [the] race.”

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