Darrell Issa — Rising Republican Star

The turnover of leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has produced a new cadre of leaders.

This is important not only for the policies they pursue in Washington but for the elected positions they may seek down the road. Perhaps the Republican with the brightest future in the state is Darrell Issa, a veteran House member from Southern California.

For Republicans, Issa has feet in both the Tea Party and traditional conservative camps. As Chair of the House Government Oversight Committee, Issa is in a prime position to expose government waste, a favorite Tea Party theme. As a multimillionaire and former electronics company magnate, Issa also relates to the business community. In short, he is the connecting point between two important segments of his political party.

Issa gained fame in 2002 when he provided $2 million in seed money to begin the recall of then-Governor Gray Davis. Along the way, he actually thought about running as a candidate to replace Davis, but backed out when he saw the high negatives that accompanied his name. But in politics, 2002 is a lifetime ago.

In the past, Issa was known as someone who shot from the hip. He also had some difficulties with the law at a young age.

Even recently, he was quoted saying that President Barack Obama was the most corrupt president in history--he's since modified that statement. He also has moderated his positions as chair of the Oversight Committee, describing himself as the taxpayer's best friend by making sure that government does not waste money. For many, it's an appealing approach.

All this puts Issa in position to be a major player in California politics next year when incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein must decide whether to run for re-election. With Feinstein turning 79 in 2012, it remains to be seen whether her age will be a factor for her or others.

If Feinstein decides to retire or is viewed as vulnerable, Darrell Issa may be the Republican to lead the challenge. Given his background, wealth, residence and values, Issa could be formidable if he chooses to run. Sure, there may be other Republican challengers, but as of now, Issa would appear to have a leg up on the rest.

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