Jane Harman Retires: Will Janice Hahn Take Her Place?
|Congresswoman Janice Hahn?|
It seems likely that Secretary of State Debra Bowen will run against her in a special primary. Bowen is from Marina del Rey, while Hahn is a San Pedran, so this would be a battle of the beach versus the harbor.
Harman is retiring from Congress to run the Woodrow Wilson Center, a centrist think tank in Washington D.C.
Hahn ran unsuccessfully for the seat when Harman stepped down to run for governor back in 1998. Hahn ran for lieutenant governor last year, and was widely expected to run for L.A. city controller. But a seat in Congress was too hard to pass up.
Hahn was Harman's guest at the State of the Union address two weeks ago.
Bowen, meanwhile, is "very, very seriously considering it," according to consultant Steve Barkan. Bowen, who is from Marina Del Rey, represented the South Bay in the Legislature for 14 years before becoming Secretary of State in 2006. She was re-elected last year.
Bowen was first elected to a moderate Assembly district in 1992, and was known as an independent Democrat, often voting against her own party. (Before she entered politics, she had been a registered Republican.) She was active on environmental and women's issues before making election integrity her cause as Secretary of State.
Asked if it would be fair to characterize Bowen as the moderate candidate in the race, Barkan said "She is a good fit for this district."
Hahn is more liberal, in part a reflection of her council district, which stretches from San Pedro up to Watts. In her lieutenant governor's campaign, she emphasized her father Kenneth Hahn's ties to the Civil Rights movement. She has fought for a parcel tax to fund gang intervention programs.
Hahn has also rubbed some of her San Pedro constituents the wrong way with her handling of the Gambol shipyard and the Ponte Vista housing development.
Two other potential candidates have ruled it out. South Bay Assemblyman Ted Lieu is running for state Senate in an election that will be held next Tuesday, so it would have been tricky -- if not impossible -- for him to turn around and run for Congress.
"I'm not doing it," Lieu said. "My reason for running was to help balance California's budget and create jobs, and I believe I can be most effective as a state Senator."
Assemblyman Warren Furutani is also not going to run, according to his chief of staff. If Hahn wins the congressional seat, though, look for him to run for City Council. (Ex-Councilman Rudy Svorinich is another likely contender for that seat.)
The race would be the first Congressional campaign to fall under California's new "open primary" system. Under the system, the top two vote-getters in the primary -- irrespective of party -- will advance to the general election. That could favor the more centrist candidate, which you'd think would work in favor of Bowen.
Both candidates have enjoyed the support of labor in the past, and both presumably will avidly court the the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which can be decisive in low-turnout special elections. Both will also have to work to line up support from the district's other major stakeholder: the aerospace industry.
Harman has served the South Bay in Congress for 16 of the last 18 years. She just won her ninth term in office against Republican Mattie Fein. She has been a leading Democratic spokeswoman on national security issues, but had a falling out with the progressive wing of the party over her handling of Bush-era civil liberties abuses.
Since being passed over for Intelligence Committee chair in 2006, there has been speculation that Harman would retire or take a job in a Democratic administration. She was a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and likely would have been appointed to a national security post in a Clinton administration.
Her 36th District stretches from Venice to San Pedro, and leans strongly Democratic. The district is split between working class, pro-labor Democrats in the Harbor area and more affluent, culturally liberal Democrats along the coast. A Bowen vs. Hahn race would pit those constituencies against each other, with Hahn representing the San Pedro Dems and Bowen as the tribune of the beach cities.
Here is Harman's letter to constituents:
Earlier today, I filed paperwork notifying the House of Representatives that I am in discussions to succeed former Rep. Lee Hamilton as President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I send this note because a decision is imminent and I wanted you to hear the news from me first.
This is an excruciating decision because the distinction of representing the smartest constituents on earth will never be surpassed - nor will my relationships with my exceptional staff and colleagues in Congress. But shaping and leading the Wilson Center is a thrilling new challenge.
I have always believed that the best solutions to tough problems require a bipartisan approach, and bipartisanship is the Center's "brand." Serving at its helm provides unique opportunities to involve the House and Senate, top experts, and world leaders in "great debates" about the most pressing foreign and domestic policy matters.
Should this opportunity come to pass, I would be required to resign my seat. But please know that I would remain in Congress for some weeks and do everything possible to ensure an orderly transition to whomever is elected to succeed me. Sidney and I will always retain our residence in Venice, be home frequently, and stay engaged at USC and active in the community.
You have elected me to nine terms in Congress - an honor without equal. I hope you understand how truly grateful I am for your friendship and support.Updated throughout at 3:30 p.m.