Republican Rep. Gary Miller of California announced Wednesday he would not run for re-election in November, giving Democrats a good chance to pick up his seat in the midterm election.
"It has been a great honor to spend so many years in public service, striving to make a difference for Southern California families. While there is still a lot of work to be done, it is now time for me to pass the baton. I will not seek re-election to Congress at the end of this term," Miller said in a statement.
Miller, who's in his eighth term in the chamber, was one of the top targets of the House Democratic campaign committee because his district is home to significantly more registered Democrats than Republicans.
While Miller carried 55% of the vote in his 2012 re-election, President Barack Obama won the district by a 57%-41% margin. Obama carried the district by the exact same margin in his 2008 presidential victory.
At a briefing with reporters at the annual House Republican retreat recently, House GOP campaign chairman Greg Walden said Miller had a very good chance to win again in 2014, but acknowledged that Miller's district was "probably our most difficult seat" to retain.
After Miller's announcement on Wednesday, Walden released a statement that made no mention about the party's prospects in the race for his seat in November, but praised Miller's record.
"During his time in Congress, he worked tirelessly to develop our country's energy sources and give our veterans the support they have earned," Walden said.
Two of the top non-partisan political handicappers, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report, had already rated the race as "lean Democrat" even before Miller's announcement.
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sounded optimistic about picking up the seat.
"The most vulnerable Republican in all of Congress just abandoned ship, rather than attempt to defend his party's out-of-touch priorities any longer. Congressman Gary Miller's retirement is just the latest proof that Republicans in Congress know they can't defend the priorities of this Congress that stands on the side of special interests and stacks the deck against the middle class," Israel said in a statement.
The Democrats need to win back a challenging 17 GOP held seats in November's election to regain control of the House.