Potential Scott Peters Challenger Surfaces (Updated)

Peters is facing his second straight close finish in California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Peters is facing his second straight close finish in California. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted March 16, 2015 at 3:26pm

Updated 5:41 p.m. |  National Republicans are in talks with a potential challenger to California Rep. Scott Peters, whose tossup district makes him a perennial target.  

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is slated to have a phone conversation soon with Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., recruitment chairman at the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion.  

The NRCC doesn’t overtly play in primaries, but an aide there said Goldmith is “a candidate of interest” to run against Peters in the 52nd District. The Democrat was one who got away last cycle, as Republicans picked up seats in the House and Senate across the country.  

“He definitely is a candidate whose bio is appealing to us, and somebody we are interested in talking to,” the NRCC aide said when reached by CQ Roll Call.  

Another GOP candidate, openly gay Marine Corps veteran Jacquie Atkinson, is also mulling a bid .  

A spokesman for Goldsmith said Goldsmith is not interested in a run for Congress.  

He has, “No plans to run. No plans to make plans. If nominated, he will not accept. If elected, he will seek a recount,” said Gerry Braun, communications director for the San Diego City Attorney’s office.  

But multiple Republican operatives in California say Goldsmith’s bio could be the best fit for the district. He defeated Peters once before, in 2008, when both ran for city attorney. Peters, who was termed out of his seat on the San Diego City Council, came in third in an open primary behind Goldsmith and incumbent Mike Aguirre.  

Prior to serving as city attorney, Goldsmith was mayor of Poway, an upper-middle-class city in the northeastern pocket of the district. He ascended to the state Assembly in 1992, then ran an unsuccessful bid for state treasurer in 1998, when he was termed out of the state legislature. Goldsmith went on to serve as a San Diego County judge for nearly a decade until winning the city attorney race in 2008.  

Peters’ district is one of just a few offensive opportunities Republicans have left on the map, after the GOP added to their ranks in 2014 to achieve a historic majority .  

Voters in the district — one of the wealthiest in the country — tend to be fiscally conservative but liberal on social issues. President Barack Obama carried it by 6 points in 2012.  

Last cycle, Republicans recruited former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio. The GOP touted DeMaio’s openly gay background, and polling showed a close race for the majority of the cycle. It earned Peters a spot on Roll Call’s list of the 10 most vulnerable House members .  

But DeMaio’s campaign imploded in the final weeks , when a former campaign staffer accused him of sexual harassment. Law enforcement officials never filed charges in the case, but DeMaio’s campaign did not have time to recover from the damage and he went on to lose by some 4,500 votes.  

In 2016, presidential-year turnout should increase the share of Democratic voters and benefit Peters, who knocked off a GOP incumbent in the last presidential cycle. Still, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee placed Peters in its “Frontline” program for the party’s most vulnerable incumbents. The program provides members with fundraising and organizational support.  


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