By Michael Doyle
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, is announcing his retirement today, ending more than three decades of representing the Sacramento Valley in Congress and the state Legislature.
Herger's retirement after 13, mostly low-key terms in the House sets the stage for a congressional run by state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. LaMalfa will be the prohibitive favorite in the safely Republican and newly renumbered 1st Congressional District, which stretches from Auburn to the Oregon border.
"He's going to announce that he's retiring, and that he's endorsing Sen. LaMalfa," Herger's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said an interview Tuesday.
Gilliard said that Herger had begun informing his congressional staff "around Christmas" of his impending retirement plans, and that he anticipates "spending more time with his grandkids."
"He has 11 grandchildren," Gilliard noted, adding that Herger "has been in Congress a long time, and he doesn't want to do the cross-country commute anymore.
Herger had stockpiled $506,981 in his campaign treasury, as of Sept. 30, and his name had not previously topped the inside-the-Beltway list of likely retirements.
Gilliard, who had served as Herger's campaign consultant, will be taking over the same role for the 51-year-old LaMalfa.
Herger, 66, becomes the third California House incumbent to announce a retirement at the end of the 112th Congress. Odds are, he won't be the last.
Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Atwater and Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly of Solvang have previously announced their retirements. Several other state lawmakers are now weighing their own futures in the light of newly competitive district maps drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
One of the state's most senior lawmakers, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, is currently considering a run in one of several newly designed Southern California districts, as well as the possibility, rumored by some, that the 77-year-old could retire after more than three decades in the House.
"He has for some time been reviewing (options)," Lewis's chief of staff Jim Specht said Tuesday, adding that Lewis is likely to make a decision "within the next two weeks."
Since winning his first House election in 1986, Herger has been a reliably conservative vote and has rarely made a splash inside the Capitol. Though a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, he was passed over for the coveted committee chairmanship.
PHOTO CAPTION: Rep. Wally Herger