Rep. Ed Royce becomes first CA Republican to announce retirement from Congress

Rep. Royce is the seventh GOP chairman to quit Congress, and joins a growing list of Republicans who are not running for re-election.

Even before a single vote is cast in the 2018 midterm elections, House Republicans are already hemorrhaging powerful members of their caucus as retirement announcements keep coming. The latest is from California.

Monday afternoon, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Orange County), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, joined the list.

“In this final year of my Foreign Affairs Committee chairmanship, I want to focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation,” Royce wrote in his announcement, referencing North Korea, Iran, and Russia. “With this in mind … I have decided not to seek reelection in November.”

While Royce is the first California Republican to announce his retirement, he marks the seventh GOP House committee chair to retire or resign this cycle, after Jason ChaffetzJeb HensarlingLamar SmithBob GoodlatteBill Shuster, and Gregg Harper.

The decision to leave was a timely one, as polls found Royce — who faces outrage in his Orange County district after boastfully voting for the GOP tax bill — is losing to a generic Democrat.

California Republicans are in a unique kind of trouble. Thanks to a quirk of the state’s nonpartisan primary system, Republicans are unlikely to qualify a candidate for Senate or governor at all, and thus both races could be between two Democrats.

If that happens, many Republican voters could simply not turn up. This would have a substantial impact in Orange County — which had voted Republican in every presidential election since 1936 but flipped for Clinton in 2016 — and where, in Royce’s district, Republicans will no longer have an incumbency advantage.

Should Democrats successfully retake the House in the fall, even districts with powerful committee chairs are no longer safe. Republicans like Royce see the writing on the wall — and they want out.