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Wendy Greuel and Ted Lieu Off to a Fast Start in Race to Replace Henry Waxman

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Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 6:10 PM
click to enlarge Ted Lieu: The next congressman?
  • Ted Lieu: The next congressman?
Henry Waxman has been in Congress for going on 40 years, so let's take a moment to reflect on his tenure before speculating about who might replace him.

OK. Moment over.

The 33rd Congressional District stretches from Agoura Hills to Palos Verdes. The top issues are "quality of life" concerns such as traffic and the environment, on which Waxman was a champion. Democrats have a 17-point registration edge, but a Republican or an independent could make it into the runoff. Here's an early handicap of the field.

Top Tier (The Eager Beavers):

State Sen. Ted Lieu: Lieu has scheduled an announcement tomorrow, and has already been calling around for endorsements. He's the strongest contender from the South Bay portion of the district. He got started on the Torrance City Council, and has served in the Assembly and now the Senate. He has a reputation as a moderate, which could help in the more conservative parts of the district. In the Legislature, he has become more liberal on social issues, and is perhaps best-known for banning gay conversion therapy. He's a prolific fundraiser and has had his eye on a Congressional seat for a while.

Former Controller Wendy Greuel: Greuel was the first to announce, declaring on Twitter that she will "fight like Congressman Henry Waxman on issues important to our families." She lives in the San Fernando Valley, though she has said she will move into the district. She will be well-known to L.A. voters, having run twice citywide. Greuel's "sensible mom" image took a beating in last year's mayoral election, where she was seen as too beholden to public employees. She also spent much of that campaign accusing Eric Garcetti of harboring ambition for higher office, while swearing that she had no such interest. She will have to explain her sudden reversal. In terms of fundraising, she can always count on strong support from the entertainment community.

Second Tier (The Chin-Strokers):
Assemblyman Richard Bloom: He's looking at it. Bloom ran an underdog campaign against two more heavily favored candidates in 2012 - Betsy Butler and Torie Osborn - and beat them both. He has a strong base in Santa Monica, which is 15 percent of the district, because he served on the Santa Monica City Council for 14 years. He's in the process of building up a good environmental record in the Legislature, but it's still early days. He may not have the same fundraising strength as Greuel or Lieu, however, and if he runs he will have to give up his Assembly seat.

State Sen. Fran Pavley: Doesn't look like she's running, but if she does, she'll be a contender. She has a very strong environmental record. She's from Agoura Hills, where she served on the city council. Her senate district covers Malibu and the West San Fernando Valley, so she would have to introduce herself to voters in Santa Monica and the South Bay.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen: Bowen doesn't appear to be running either, but she might. She ran in a very similar district back in 2011, after Jane Harman retired. She lost that contest, finishing a close third in the primary. She represented the South Bay in the Legislature, has solid progressive credentials and an affinity for the world of tech. She's termed out, so in that sense she has nothing to lose. But she may have a bad taste from that 2011 defeat. One lesson from that campaign: If she's going to get in, she should do so sooner rather than later. Janice Hahn declared almost immediately and was able to sew up key endorsements.

Third Tier (The Outside-the-Box Club):
Sandra Fluke: Fluke put out a statement today saying she is "strongly considering" a run. Who is Sandra Fluke? She was the Georgetown law student who, in 2012, testified in favor of the contraception mandate in President Obama's health care law. For her trouble she was branded a slut by Rush Limbaugh, which caused quite a stir for a few weeks. This gave her a national profile, and the announcement that she is considering running for Congress made headlines in Politico and CNN. She is not well-known on the local political scene, in part because she moved to L.A. recently and has never run for anything.

Bill Bloomfield: He has maintained a Sphinx-like silence about his intentions. He's an independent. He spent $8 million on his own campaign against Waxman in 2012, and came surprisingly close to beating him. Someone will have to run to the center-right in this field, and it might be Bloomfield.

Matt Miller: The KCRW radio host is thinking about a run. He's a Democrat, but he occupies the "center" position on the show "Left, Right and Center," which he hosts, and calls himself a "radical centrist." He also has a column in the Washington Post, and served in the Clinton administration. He and Bloomfield might find themselves fighting for the political middle.

Marianne Williamson: The self-actualization guru has been running for months. If you thought Henry Waxman was a corporate stooge, then she's your candidate. In a best-case scenario, she could attract the left-wing activist community who flocked in previous years to Marcy Winograd. But even that is a tall order.

Fourth Tier (Not Running, But Flattered By Your Interest):
Zev Yaroslavsky: Officially he's considering it, because he loves to be included on lists like this, but c'mon.

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