George Papadopoulos, the former Donald Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty in the special counsel investigation and who inadvertently set the Russia investigation into motion, told Los Angeles he is “very seriously” considering running for Representative Katie Hill’s seat following the announcement of her resignation on Sunday.
A source with knowledge of Papadopoulos’s plans said he plans to officially announce and file his candidacy for Hill’s seat in the 25th district today. He’ll run in the regular election and a special election, if the governor orders one. He already had a team in place, the source said.
As Hill stepped down amid a House Ethics Committee investigation and allegations of sexual relationships with staffers, Papadopoulos, tweeted, “I’m smelling blood in the water now that Katie Hill has resigned. California’s 25th congressional district is wide open for the taking. Someone has to step up. I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sell outs.”
I’m smelling blood in the water now that Katie Hill has resigned. California’s 25th congressional district is wide open for the taking. Someone has to step up. I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sell outs.
— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) October 27, 2019
On Monday, he said in a direct message that he is “looking at it very seriously” and that “no decision has been made yet.” He would run as a Republican.
Hill represented the 25th congressional district, which includes parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Several candidates were already running for Hill’s seat in 2020. Now those candidates, along with Papadopoulos, are considering whether they would run in a special election to fill the seat sooner. By state law, Governor Gavin Newsom has two weeks to issue a proclamation for a special election, and it must take place between 126 and 140 days after his proclamation. A spokesperson for Newsom’s office would not comment on his plans.
At least two of the candidates already running were open to competing in a special election for Hill’s seat, their spokespeople said: Angela Underwood Jacobs, a Republican city councilwoman in Lancaster, and State Assemblywoman Christy Smith, a Democrat. A third candidate in the regular election, David Rudnick, a Democrat and business owner, said he was not planning to run in any special election unless he was required to do so.
Papadopoulos would be a much different candidate than Underwood Jacobs and Smith, both of whom currently hold public offices. He joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser in May 2016, and after Trump took office, he worked as an independent oil, gas, and policy consultant, he indicated on LinkedIn.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Papadopoulos with lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who claimed he had connections with top Russians and “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Mueller’s office outlined how during the 2016 campaign, Papadopoulos tried to connect campaign officials with Russians. He pleaded guilty in October 2017 and served 12 days in prison in late 2018.
Since leaving prison last December, Papadopoulos published a book, Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump, which the publisher describes as “the only firsthand account that proves the attempted sabotage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by American and international intelligence services.” (“Good luck with the book, George. Should do well!” Trump tweeted.)
He previously expressed interest in running for Congress, telling The Telegraph about his political aspirations days after his release from prison. Around the same time, he tweeted, “It is true. I will be running for Congress in 2020, and I will win. Stay tuned.” He had been considering a run in the 48th congressional district, according to a May 2019 feature on him and his wife in The Washington Post Magazine. The magazine said he was no longer running.
But while media reports were skeptical about his political plans right out of prison, the former Trump campaign aide might find greater support now, having built his resume and following through media appearances and speaking engagements. And the premise of his book—that he was a target of anti-Trump deep state forces in U.S. politics—perhaps resonates more now that the Department of Justice is investigating the origins of the Russia probe. The new investigation, in which Attorney General William Barr is personally involved, is now a criminal inquiry, The New York Times reported last Thursday.
There also could be increased Republican interest in the 25th district, given that a Republican, former Representative Steve Knight, held the seat until Hill defeated him in 2018. (In a Facebook post on Sunday, Knight indicated that he would run again.)
“It’s been a highly reliable Republican district for a very long time,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst and retired professor of public policy communication at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. “I think it’s much harder now for the Democrats to keep that seat than it would have been had Katie Hill been running for reelection.”
Kate Maeder, a Democratic political strategist said any election will be close between Democrats and Republicans in the district. “This was one of the seats that Republicans saw as for play to take back in 2020,” she said. “But what Hill’s team built in 2018 is a dedicated and enthusiastic group of activists and volunteers. It’s going to carry over to the 2020 election.”
But Republicans in California have not gained any seats in the House since 1998, as CQ Roll Call reported.
Papadopoulos is signaling that unlike in 2018, this time he will actually run. On Monday night he appeared as the special guest at a political event in Costa Mesa hosted by two political action campaigns. And he already has supporters. JD Rucker, who runs the conservative Christian news website NOQ Report, tweeted, “If @GeorgePapa19 decides to run in #CA25, he would be an instant favorite to make it to the general election. Then, he’ll take his message of individual empowerment to the people of CA-25, a message he’s uniquely qualified to deliver.”
If @GeorgePapa19 decides to run in #CA25, he would be an instant favorite to make it to the general election. Then, he’ll take his message of individual empowerment to the people of CA-25, a message he’s uniquely qualified to deliver. https://t.co/iKtOx4OpV4
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) October 28, 2019
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