By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
By most standards, it's not a record a self-respecting Democrat would want to write home about. By the standard of an open primary, however, it's a record that just might catapult Harman into the governor's mansion.
Harman has always depended on the kindness of crossover voters. In her first run for Congress, she campaigned heavily and successfully among pro-choice Republican women who were repelled by her Republican opponent's anti-choice stance. With Dan Lungren - another anti-choice stalwart - unopposed in the Republican primary, she will be campaigning not only among Democrats this June, but sending mail to selected Republican women as well, says Bill Carrick, her campaign consultant. (Carrick would have been the consultant for Feinstein had she run, then Riordan had he run. Clearly, this is a guy who has cornered a niche market.)
The Democrats have gone down this path before. In 1992, with both Feinstein and Barbara Boxer on the ballot, the party helped them both to victory by sending 800,000 pieces of mail to suburban Republican women. This November, no matter whether Gray Davis, Al Checchi or Harman is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, a similar pitch to Republican women is sure to be made: All the Democrats are pro-choice, and all have somewhat better bona fides than Lungren on the key issue of education.
But the open primary is terra incognita: Can Harman win over the independents and Republicans she needs in June, when no one is accustomed to crossing party lines in the primary? For that matter, can Al Checchi?
For Harman isn't the only candidate in the field banking on crossover votes. While Davis has a base among core Democrats, Checchi enters the race with no political identity whatever, and a bankroll that can fund a campaign targeting every constituency in the known political universe. To date, Checchi's campaign has something for everyone: for the right, the death penalty for child molesters (though he is said to oppose it for serial loiterers); for the left, a commitment to greater income equity and public investment in education.
Harman has the record to take on Checchi in the race for crossovers. Whether she has the money to do so will be known soon enough. (Carrick says her ads will shortly start appearing on California airwaves). Clearly, one consequence of the open primary and the expanded pool of voters it opens to the best-funded candidates is that it places an even greater premium on money in politics than was already the case. Just what California politics needed.
Harman's entry scrambles what was shaping up as a fairly predictable Democratic primary, with Checchi campaigning as the fresh outsider, and Davis campaigning as the keeper of the Democratic flame. She certainly muddies the clarity of Checchi's one-on-one attack on Davis, as well as posing a threat to his campaign for non-Democratic voters. She also could be the beneficiary of the Democratic gender gap - the Democratic primary electorate is 60 percent female, and in every recent statewide Democratic primary that pitted a female against a male (not to mention a female against two males), the female has won. (Note for Ripley's Believe-It etc.: Should Harman actually be elected, and Boxer re-elected, California's governor and both of its senators would be Jewish women.)
But first, Harman has to come up with enough money to convince the state she's a credible Feinstein substitute. If she does, she will surely not be the candidate of choice for thousands of Democrats - but she's sure to be the candidate Lungren fears most. For if she wins in June, it's likely to be with the votes that he needs - and she'll take - in November.