The Antelope Valley is losing a strong advocate for the aerospace industry with the retirement of Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon.
McKeon, 75, said Thursday he would not seek re-election to represent a district that includes Santa Clarita and parts of the Antelope Valley. McKeon, a Republican, has been serving as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee since 2011.
“You know when you’re HASC Chairman, you don’t just represent the people of your district. You also represent the troops,” McKeon said in his prepared remarks. “Serving our military men and women was the great highlight of my 20 years in Congress.”
McKeon was a strong supporter of the region’s aerospace industry, represented in the Antelope Valley by defense contract giants Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md.; Northrop Grumman Corp., of Falls Church, Va.; and Boeing Co, of Chicago, as well as many sub-contractors. He was expressly interested in preserving local jobs in the face of Pentagon budget cuts.
“It was a great to have someone as chairman to get you notoriety and show the rest of the nation that what we are doing is invaluable,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford.
McKeon’s retirement was not completely unexpected and there had been talk about his future in politics during the last election, said Josh Mann, a former executive director of the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and current board member of the Board of Trade and Lancaster Chamber of Commerce.
“It is bittersweet to see him retire,” Mann said. “His time in Congress was certainly beneficial to keeping our Armed Forces safe and making the local economy as successful as it could be.”
State Sen. Steve Knight, a Republican who represents the Antelope Valley in the state Senate, has already announced his intention to run for the seat. Ledford said he is supporting Knight because he is a strong defense industry backer.