Former state Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark, who announced Tuesday that he will be a candidate to replace retiring Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon in the 25th Congressional District, said he plans to move into the district soon but that he will hardly need the help of the Welcome Wagon once he arrives.
“It’s not a big uprooting of my family,” he said. “I live two miles from the district. It’s nothing new. When we eat out, when we shop, we do it in the district. My boy plays in Simi Youth Baseball.”
The district includes most of Simi Valley, the city where Strickland grew up and graduated high school. He also represented about one-third of the district, including all of Simi Valley and part of Santa Clarita, as a state senator from 2008 to 2012.
Despite Strickland’s Simi Valley roots, some critics have sought to portray him as a carpetbagger after he made known his interest in running in the 25th District. The website of a Santa Clarita TV station said in a headline that McKeon was endorsing a “nondistrict resident” to succeed him in Congress.
The Constitution does not require members of the House of Representatives to live in their districts, but Strickland said he plans to look for a home in the 25th District and hopes to move there before the primary.
“I’m not on a millionaire’s budget, and like a lot of people, my house doesn’t have a lot of equity,” he said.
Strickland is one of two prominent Republicans in the race, and in the June 3 primary he will compete against state Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale for the support of GOP voters.
Knight said last week he did not plan to make an issue of Strickland’s residency.
“That’ll be up for the voters to decide,” he said. “I do think you have to a commitment to the district you represent, that it be the place where you live and shop and raise your kids.”
Strickland said he does not know whether he will move to Simi Valley or to one of the Los Angeles County communities in the district, which include Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Lancaster and parts of the San Fernando Valley.
Presumably, the Strickland family will need to stay in or near Ventura County. Audra Strickland, who like her husband is a former Assembly member, took a job last fall for the Hospital Association of Southern California as regional vice president for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The couple have two school-age children.
Strickland, former chairman of the Assembly Republican Caucus and co-chairman of Meg Whitman’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, said he thinks the campaign should be about leadership.
In a news release formally announcing his candidacy, Strickland said that as a member of the Assembly in 2001, he sued then-Gov. Gray Davis to force the disclosure of details of long-term energy contracts purchased by the state during the electricity crisis.
“I didn’t back down from Gray Davis when he was running California into the ground, and I won’t back down from President Obama and Nancy Pelosi when they try to do the same to our country,” he said.
McKeon, who made his endorsement immediately after announcing his retirement, said he is backing Strickland because, “He shares our conservative values, and he’s effective.”
Knight has received endorsements from much of the district’s GOP establishment, including Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy of Simi Valley and Assemblyman Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita.
“The political establishment wasn’t with me when I first ran for the state Assembly, and I crossed the finish line,” he said. “Chairman McKeon understands what it takes. I’ll take Congressman McKeon’s endorsement over that of the political establishment.