Update: 1:50 p.m.: No sooner had Martinez Congressman George Miller announced this morning that he won’t run for a 21st term this fall than a potential successor had declared his candidacy.
First out of the gate: State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord. He told the Sacramento Bee, “I’m playing phone tag with him right now. George is a really good friend,” DeSaulnier said. “I wish him well and I would love to replace him in Congress. “It was always my intention to run.”
DeSaulnier is a veteran legislator: He served on the Concord Planning Commission and City Council and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the Assembly in 2006. He served one term there before winning the first of two elections to the state Senate in 2008. He’s the chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, where he’s been one of the leading critics of cost overruns and construction problems encountered during building of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
KQED’s Stephanie Martin spoke with Democratic political strategist Chris Lehane Monday afternoon about Congressman Miller’s career, and why many have dubbed him the U.S. House’s version of the late Senator Ted Kennedy:
East Bay Congressman George Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee and a longtime confidant of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, announced Monday he will not seek re-election this year after four decades in Congress.
Miller, a native of Richmond, has been a leading Democratic party voice on education, labor and health care policy. He played a prominent role in developing President Obama’s signature health care overhaul and has helped guide House Democrats on issues such as education funding and college affordability.
“I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me,” Miller said.
Pelosi said in a statement that Miller’s “patriotism, wisdom and guidance have been especially valued, and he has been a close friend since my first days in the House.”
Miller was first elected to Congress in 1974, part of the Democratic surge that followed the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. It was the first and only office Miller was ever elected to. Previously, he had served on the staff of then state Senate Majority Leader George Moscone. He attended Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, San Francisco State University and earned a law degree at UC Davis.
Miller is the son of the late state Sen. George Miller Jr., who represented Contra Costa County in Sacramento from 1948 through 1969. In the statement announcing his retirement today, Rep. Miller talked about his father’s influence on his career:
“As a youth, I watched my father use his elected position to really help people, and I told myself, `That’s what I want to do when I grow up.’ Wealthy and powerful special interests have always had friends in Washington. I came to Congress to stand up for the rest of us.”
The congressman’s Capitol Hill home helped inspire Amazon’s political comedy “Alpha House,” a television series starring John Goodman about the lives of four U.S. senators who share a D.C. home while not in their home states.
Miller’s roommates include Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who joked on Twitter: “Seeking roommate. 20 terms in the House & unmatched legislative record preferred. Lover of cold cereal a must.”
Miller is the fourth House Democrat to announce retirement plans in recent weeks, joining Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Carolyn McCarthy of New York.
This post incorporates material from the Associated Press.