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Protesters Stage ‘Retirement Party’ for Issa

Weekly protests against retiring Republican congressman come to an end after more than a year

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., walks up the House steps for final votes of the week in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., walks up the House steps for final votes of the week in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Demonstrators at outgoing California Rep. Darrell Issa’s district office threw the Republican a “retirement party” after protesting there weekly for more than a year.

Issa critics had been holding protests at the congressman’s office for roughly 65 weeks, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Roughly 150 protesters gathered Tuesday holding a poster shaped like a surf board to symbolize a “blue wave” of Democrats winning Issa’s district and other GOP-held ones in November.

“This is it. It’s bittersweet,” said Erin Tracy, who said she attended protests almost every week. “We accomplished our goal, to get Issa to retire. But this is therapy. This is family.”

Issa announced in January that he would not seek re-election. The Republican narrowly beat retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate in 2016 after winning in his district by large margins in his nine terms in the House.

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Issa’s narrow victory and subsequent retirement has led to a glut of Democratic challengers, including Applegate, investment firm owner and Navy veteran Paul Kerr, environmental lawyer Mike Levin, and Sara Jacobs, who worked for a contractor for the State Department.

Many of the candidates including Jacobs, Levin and Applegate have attended the protests.

They have also featured speakers like Democratic billionaire donor Tom Steyer, who had pledged to target Issa before he retired and has said he is dedicating $7 million to help Democrats in Florida and California.

The protests started shortly after the 2016 election in response to Facebook or personal invites from protester Ellen Montanari.

Tim O’Healy, one of the protesters and a retired Marine, made it his job to count the number of protesters at each event. He said there were regularly about 350 people in front of Issa’s office and reached a peak of about 850.

The two candidates who receive the most votes on California’s June 5th primary will advance to the general election, regardless of party.

That has some Democrats worrying the number of candidates on their side could lead to a split vote and have two Republicans in the general for a district that broke for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates California’s 49th District Toss-up.