But his bare-knuckle partisanship had begun to wear on a district that is affluent and increasingly moderate. As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Mr. Issa routinely ripped into Mr. Obama, his aides and his cabinet, as well as their handling of a gunrunning investigation known as Fast and Furious, the Internal Revenue Service’s slow-walking of political groups’ applications for nonprofit status, the terrorist attack on an American government compound in Benghazi, Libya, and many other matters.
Without Mr. Issa on the ballot, Democrats boasted on Wednesday that they were well positioned to turn the seat blue.
“After passing a devastating tax scam and fighting to rip away health care from millions of families, California Republicans clearly see the writing on the wall and realize that their party and its priorities are toxic to their re-election chances in 2018,” said Drew Godinich, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican campaign arm, predicted that a contentious Democratic primary would leave the eventual nominee “black and blue, and broke” and benefit the Republicans. A person familiar with the Republican effort to replace Mr. Issa said there was an expectation that several Republicans could enter the race, including Diane Harkey, a member of the California Board of Equalization, and Rocky Chavez, a member of the State Assembly.
The founder of a successful car-alarm company, Mr. Issa is one of Congress’s wealthiest members. But he became best known in Washington for turning the Oversight Committee into something like an Inquisition. He appeared to relish the role.
Since leaving the post several years ago, though, he has moved toward less contentious issues. In a bizarre turn, facing a difficult re-election in 2016, Mr. Issa came to embrace Mr. Obama — a development the then-president called “the definition of chutzpah.”
Just last month, Mr. Issa was one of only a few Republicans who voted against the party’s tax plan, doing so, he said, out of concern that the bill’s changes to popular individual tax deductions would hurt his district.
Mr. Issa’s announcement closely followed that of another Southern California Republican, Representative Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Democrats see both districts, and California more broadly, as crucial to winning back a majority in the House, and they have plans to invest heavily in races there.
In total, 31 Republicans are either retiring or leaving the House to seek another elected office, including several other senior Republican lawmakers. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to win control of the House.
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