Longtime Orange County congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the high-profile Foreign Affairs Committee, announced Monday that he will retire when his current term is completed at the end of the year.
The conservative Republican, 66, has repeatedly won reelection by broad margins but has seen the GOP advantage in his district slip to less than 2-percentages. And since Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in his district in the 2016 election, Royce has drawn six Democratic challengers. While he said Monday that his polling shows he would easily win reelection, he also said the task likely would require considerable campaigning.
Royce, who is required by Republican protocol to step down from his committee chairmanship this year because of a 6-year limit, said he plans to focus his last year entirely on his committee work.
“I want to devote every bit of time and energy to foreign affairs,” said Royce, a longtime Fullerton resident who recently moved to Yorba Linda.
“We face threats like never before. We have very dangerous regimes in Iran and North Korea and we have (Vladimir) Putin’s weaponization of information.”
Royce is one of the county’s most veteran Republican officials, having served in the House since 1993 and spending a decade before that in the state Senate. His district includes portions of northern Orange County, eastern Los Angeles County, and southwestern San Bernardino County
Royce’s visibility has been heightened by frequent TV news appearances discussing foreign affairs, while among insiders he is known as a thoughtful conservative and tireless campaigner. He opposes abortion rights and has received an “A” from the National Rifle Association, but is best known for foreign affairs work, including efforts to crack down on human trafficking and on the ivory trade in Africa.
Royce announcement caught many off guard.
“It was a complete surprise,” former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh. “Ed Royce has been a champion for Orange County and this country for for freedom throughout the world.”
There are no other Republicans currently declared for his seat and it is unclear who will run from the GOP. His retirement is expected to buoy Democrats chances of winning the district this year.
Baugh opened an account two years ago to run for the seat of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, should Rohrabacher retire. However, Rohrabacher has not retired. Baugh, a former state Assemblyman, wouldn’t comment on whether he’d…