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CA-36: Janice Hahn In, SecState Debra Bowen May Also Run

LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has entered the race in CA-36 to replace the retiring Jane Harman. Hahn, 58, represents a good part of the district on the City Council. She last ran for this seat in 1998, when Harman left to pursue a race for Governor of California. Not only was Harman unsuccessful, so was Hahn, losing to Steve Kuykendall. Harman returned in 2000 and won back the seat. The district has grown more liberal since then with the inclusion of liberal areas in the north.

In her announcement, Hahn stressed her ability to “work closely with Congresswoman Harman over the past decade on a variety of important efforts to create jobs and improve security at LAX and the port. Her leadership will be missed,” she said. Hahn also attended the State of the Union as Harman’s guest and met with her on multiple other initiatives (like bringing the USS Iowa to Los Angeles) in Washington over the past month. But in addition to pursuing Harman’s endorsement, Hahn and her campaign people have sought conversations with prominent progressives in the district as well. The early announcement is a clear effort to knock out whatever competition may emerge.

That won’t be successful. Hahn will have competition, including from progressive favortie and current Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who represented the district in the state legislature and who has a large following here.

“She is very, very seriously considering running for Congress,” Bowen campaign consultant Steve Barkan said. “It’s brand new news, and so she needs to take all factors into consideration.”

Bowen has been a national leader on election protection issues since winning the Secretary of State’s office in 2006. She would have the highest name recognition and the most passionate support if she entered the race, without question.

Assemblyman Warren Furutani may also join the field, and on the Republican side, 2010 nominee Mattie Fein is likely to run again. Marcy Winograd, who ran twice as a primary challenger to Harman, actually moved out of the district and back to Santa Monica, so it’s questionable whether she would run again (although that’s really just up the road from the district border). Her bloc of supporters would be crucial to whoever wants to win.

The CA-36 special election will operate under a top-two primary setup. Voters can select any candidate, Republican, Democratic or independent. If one candidate gets over 50%, they win in the first round. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters proceed to a runoff.

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David Dayen

David Dayen