Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, plans to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley in the 26th Congressional District, foregoing a final term in the Legislature's lower chamber and putting his seat in jeopardy.
In a statement announcing the decision, Gorell lamented the gamesmanship and gridlock that is gripping Washington.
"We deserve a congressional representative who will focus on uniting the community," he said. "In the Legislature, I have built a reputation as an independent leader
capable of working across the aisle.
"By placing people above parties, we achieved results on the important issues facing the district such as protecting homes in Port Hueneme against beach erosion; helping position our port to be more globally competitive and energy efficient; enacting new state tax incentives to protect our local manufacturing jobs; and launching the bipartisan 'Gold Team California' to attract new jobs."
26th Congressional District(Click on map for registration numbers.)
Gorell's entry appears to signal the path forward for fellow Republican Tony Strickland, a former state senator who lost to Brownley in 2012 and could seek the seat of GOP Rep. Buck McKeon should he retire.
The move also allows Democrats to mount an earlier-than-expected challenge for the 44th Assembly District, which has a slight Democratic registration advantage and has already drawn interest from several potential candidates.
A Navy reservist and former county prosecutor, Gorell was deployed to Afghanistan just a few months after he took office in 2011. He won reelection despite his district being redrawn in a way that increased its Democratic registration. Gorrell, the chairman of his party's outreach efforts, also worked in the administration of former Gov. Pete Wilson.
With the district's large share of unaffiliated voters, Democratic-aligned Super PACs spent heavily during the 2012 primary to rough up independent Linda Parks, a Ventura County supervisor and former Republican, to ensure that Brownley made it into the November runoff. She defeated Strickland by 5.5 percentage points.
Looking ahead to 2014, Gorell warned that Navy Base Ventura County would almost certainly be threatened for closure, taking with it thousands of jobs.
The federal health care overhaul may also figure predominately in the race.
"Local families are losing their insurance, premiums are skyrocketing, and many Californians will soon be losing their choice of doctors," Gorell said, adding that he's running to "fix the health care mess in Washington."
Editor's note: This post was updated at noon to reflect the voter breakdown in the 44th Assembly District.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento on March 11, 2013. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua)