Love him or hate him … like a friend who spends all day, every day, in his pajamas, on the couch, watching Fox News … He’s confusing, he’s frustrating; sometimes he makes you want to leave the state and change your name so he’ll never be able to find you again. The 24th Congressional District — he can be a royal pain in the ass, and he’s ours whether we like it or not.
For as long as most of us can remember, the 24th has been a stubborn, unreasonable district; unwilling to budge no matter the political climate, no matter who was sitting in the White House — war, no war, recession, no recession, pre-9/11, post-9/11. The 24th just sat there and refused to change, wouldn’t roll with the punches and kept renting red tuxedos, even though everyone else was wearing blue to the prom.
In the 19 years Elton Gallegly has been the representative of the 24th District there have been four different presidents. The world has changed since 1986. And that is not to say Gallegly hasn’t. We’re sure the 10-term congressman from Simi Valley has done his fair share of changing (although we wouldn’t know; we haven’t seen him out and about much over the last few years); it’s the voting population of the 24th that just keeps puttin’ along, happy with the status quo.
And then, every two years, the 24th goes up for grabs. It is a rare Republican who works up the courage to run in the primary against Gallegly, probably because his incumbency is stronger than any platform a mere mortal could dream up. The Democrats look around for a sacrificial lamb, in the hopes that they might stumble upon a David with more than a pebble in his sling-shot. And even when the Democrats do find someone willing to really campaign and fundraise and shake hands, Gallegly still wins with over 62 percent of the vote.
What’s a person to do? Wait for Gallegly to retire and hope that shakes the district out of its frustratingly contented slumber? Well, that’s what we did, essentially. And here we are. Gallegly set to retire (maybe … the jury is still out) and a relative unknown taking up the only other slot in the Republican primary. In the other corner we have one lone Democrat. And outside the arena? Droves of hungry politicians who, had they known more than a few hours before the filling deadline that Gallegly didn’t intend to run, would have thrown their hats into the ring with unprecedented glee.
It could’ve been interesting. It could have forced some real dialogue and public debate and analysis of important issues into those sleepy corners of the district. It could’ve been the most lively primary (on both sides), not to mention congressional election, this District has seen in ages. It could have been exciting.
Who knows? Things still have the potential to get interesting. Maybe we’ll see a special election if Gallegly is elected but chooses not to serve another two years, although it’s doubtful. Or maybe, through some legal loophole, someone will figure out how to extend the filing deadline and we’ll have a real race on our hands. Whatever goes down, we’ve got to keep hoping that the 24th doesn’t miss this opportunity to embrace some real political energy, because who knows when another one like this will come around again.