By Sonya Geis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 30 -- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a vigorous opponent of illegal immigration, announced Monday that he is starting the process of seeking the presidency in 2008.
Hunter, 58, said he will form an exploratory committee for a presidential run, adding his name to a list of better-known GOP hopefuls such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
"I've always laid my cards on the table," Hunter said at a news conference in San Diego. "As I finish my final two years as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I'm also going to be preparing to run for president of the United States in 2008."
The 13-term congressman is known in his suburban San Diego district for advocacy on immigration and military issues. He was a leader in the construction of a 14-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego, and he cosponsored legislation that President Bush signed last week to build 700 miles of additional fencing along the border. A Vietnam veteran, Hunter has advocated for a strong military, sometimes taking positions to the right of Republican leaders.
Hunter is expected to cruise to reelection next week, but if Democrats win a majority in the House he would lose his committee chairmanship.
That may be a factor in his unexpected announcement, said John J. Pitney Jr., a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.
"He has been in Congress long enough to remember what it was like in the minority," Pitney said. "The difference between being chair of a committee and being a minority member is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. . . . He may have decided a long-shot presidential campaign is more fun."