Sources: Doolittle won’t seek re-election |

Sources: Doolittle won’t seek re-election

Dave Moller and Jeff Pelline
Sun news service
and The Associated Press

Congressman John Doolittle (R-Roseville), under investigation for a lobbying scandal, will announce at 10:30 a.m. that he will not seek re-election, according to informed sources.

The Associated Press cited a Republican official who spoke with Doolittle but spoke on condition of anonymity. An independent source confirmed to The Union that Doolittle wouldn’t seek re-election.

Doolittle’s decision, after serving 17 years in Congress, puts a solidly Republican Congressional seat up for grabs in the November election.

Doolittle, 57 will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in Roseville to make an official statement that he will not run for a 10th term.

“He will announce whether he will run or not,” Plag said earlier this morning. He declined comment on the reports Doolittle will not seek re-election.

The AP first reported that “Doolittle will retire,” which Plag called “inaccurate.” Later, though, the AP corrected the report to read that the Congressman will retire “at the end of his term.” The article was filed from Washington, D.C.

Also this morning, Doolittle will meet with supporters, including some from Nevada County. The ones who were contacted last night were unsure what Doolittle would announce but remained hopeful he would run again.

The county’s Republican Central Committee met last night, but members were not sure of Doolittle’s plans as well.

Heated battle

Challengers for his seat will include Democrat Charlie Brown and two declared Republican challengers ” former Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes and Air Force reservist Eric Egland.

Former State Senator Rico Oller also has said he would run for Doolittle’s seat if the Congressman dropped out, and state Assemblyman Ted Gaines has formed an exploratory committee. The candidate filing period for California’s June 2008 primary begins Feb. 11.

In August, Doolittle, 57, said he was planning to run in November. But speculation has been mounting that Doolittle will change his mind because of his links to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pled guilty to illegal lobbying in 2006.

Doolittle also has been losing support in the GOP ” deeply worried about losing a solidly Republican seat ” and his fundraising had lagged far behind Brown’s because of the lobbying scandal. The GOP lost control of Congress in 2006, and the presidential race is up for grabs.

Some county GOP leaders have expressed frustration at Doolittle’s poor judgment in getting tangled in a lobbying scandal. They also complained when he backpedaled on support of the Iraq war.

Doolittle has served on the powerful House appropriations committee for seven years but stepped down last year as the investigation heated up.

His troubles began when he intervened on Indian gaming issues for Abramoff and referred to him as a friend.

After Doolittle’s wife, Julie, performed work for Abramoff, the couple’s home office was raided by the FBI in April 2007 as part of the three year investigation into the lobbyist’s activities.

The congressman from the Placer County Republican stronghold 4th District almost got beat by Brown of Roseville in 2006. Doolittle won by only 9,000 votes and lost in Nevada County.

The close call made him politically vulnerable for the first time in years.

He has been served with grand jury subpoenas but is challenging them. The legal dispute and investigation is not expected to be resolved until after the November election, putting voters in the awkward position of voting for a candidate who might be indicted.

Doolittle’s legal bills are growing as well.

Visits here

Doolittle has been criticized for being aloof in his district, but after nearly losing to Brown, he became more visible.

He visited The Union twice in the past year, for hours at a time, sounding upbeat but expressing frustration at the drawn out lobbying investigation. He steadfastly declared his innocence.

During his visits, Doolittle provided some precient political insights, such as accurately predicting the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales well before it occurred.

On one visit, Julie joined him. She talked about her children and was proud to show off her new Apple iPhone. Doolittle also held weekly phone calls with reporters, hoping to be perceived as more accessible.

He also met with supporters in Grass Valley and Nevada City.

The political fate of Doolittle has come into sharp focus this week, when he flew from Washington to his district late Tuesday for a Wednesday morning meeting with staffers.

The staffers continued to dismiss speculation about the congressman’s future, despite persistent media reports that suggested he would not seek re-election.

Prior to the upcoming visit, Doolittle sent supporters an upbeat e-mail inviting them to meet with him.

“Please join with our key supporters for news about our plans for 2008,” Doolittle wrote in the e-mail. “You have been an important part of my election efforts, and I want you to get the inside news directly from me and my campaign advisers,” the e-mail said.

This week, Doolittle released a list of updated accomplishments during his 17 years in Congress.

In Nevada County, it included $2.8 million for the widening of State Road 89, known as the Mouse Hole, near Truckee; $744,256 for the Dorsey Drive Interchange in Grass Valley: $470,000 for the Narcotics Task Force to combat methamphetamine use; $335,000 for a community-wide system of electronic health records at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital; $100,000 for a mobile data computer system; and $50,000 for Grass Valley Detection K-9 unit.

Some of the funding and projects are incomplete, however, such as the Dorsey Drive Interchange.

Th Union will be attending Doolittle’s press conference, and this article will be updated during the day. For a full report, read tomorrow’s print edition of The Union.

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