Updated at 3 p.m. with interview of Bowen.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that she is running for Congress to fill the seat held by retiring Rep. Jane Harman.
Bowen will face off against L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who launched her campaign last week. In an interview this afternoon, Bowen avoided taking shots at Hahn, noting only that "we come from very different backgrounds."
"My political roots were in the Neighborhood Watch," Bowen said. "Then I started doing volunteer work for Heal the Bay. It wasn't my intention to ever run for anything."
Hahn, of course, is a member of a political dynasty -- she's the
daughter of Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and the sister of Mayor James Hahn.
Whatever the difference in their origins, both of them could fairly be tagged as career politicians by now. Bowen first ran for Assembly in 1992. Hahn first ran for L.A. City Council in 1993.
Hahn has picked up a slew of endorsements in the last week, including those of Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Speaker John Perez. Bowen said she was not concerned that she was getting a late start.
"The voters of this district know me," she said. "They know my record on jobs, on open government and on environmental protection. Endorsements really come into play when people don't know the candidates."
Bowen has served as Secretary of State since 2006, where she made election integrity her core issue.
"I feel I have accomplished the major work that needed to be done in the Secretary of State's office," she said.
Neither candidate has had to delve much into foreign policy before. Such issues have been a flashpoint in the 36th Congressional District, as progressive Democrats -- led by Marcy Winograd -- have charged Harman with being too hawkish. The district is also home to major aerospace firms that rely on the federal government and that provide thousands of jobs.
"This is the place where my first commitment will be to listen," Bowen said. "As a starting point, we need to have a strong national defense. There's a particular stake in that in the 36th Congressional District. There's a good amount of aerospace and defense work that provides good jobs, and that's important. But it's also important we not waste money in places like Afghanistan while we're shirking our domestic needs."
The seat opened up last week, when Rep. Jane Harman announced she was
retiring to take the helm of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, a
centrist foreign policy think tank.
Several other candidates are expected to run, but Hahn and Bowen will be the two heavyweights.
The 36th Congressional District stretches from Venice to San Pedro. Hahn is expected to have the support of labor groups, including the L.A. County Federation of Labor -- whose support can be crucial in a low-turnout vote. Hahn, who is from San Pedro, can be expected to put up a strong showing in the Harbor area, where union density is high.
Bowen, who hails from Marina del Rey, is expected to draw her strongest support in the more affluent beach cities. She served the South Bay in the Legislature for 14 years before being elected Secretary of State in 2006.
Hahn ran for the seat once before, in 1998, narrowly losing to Republican Steve Kuykendall. The boundaries have been redrawn since then, and the district is now much more Democratic.
Lori Geittmann, the president of the Beach Cities Democratic Club, noted that Hahn lost the coastal precincts to Gavin Newsom in last year's Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
"That would be a worry for her," Geittmann said. "Janice has run two races that she lost. I don't think her lieutenant governor's campaign was very good. I don't think she generally runs a good campaign."
Geittman said she is supporting Bowen because she has more experience and she showed courage in decertifying electronic voting machines.
Marcy Winograd, who challenged Harman twice from the left in the Democratic primary, has yet to announce whether she will also seek the seat.
Harman was expected to make her resignation official today, but is now
expected to do so on
Feb. 27 Feb. 28, in order for the special congressional election to be
consolidated with a statewide vote in June to extend tax increases.
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The primary election would be held eight weeks earlier, presumably sometime in April. (At this point, it's not clear whether the primary will be held in April or June. We've heard both. If it's April, then the general will be in June. If it's June, then the general will be in August.)
Gov. Jerry Brown just clarified that he's trying to consolidate the primary election with the statewide tax measure in June. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, that would put the runoff sometime in August.
This is the first congressional election to be held under the new "top-two" open primary system. The top two vote-getters in June, regardless of party, will advance to the general election.
Of note: According to her Twitter feed, Janice Hahn was phone-banking for Ted Lieu yesterday. Lieu, who is the favorite in today's special Senate election in the South Bay, has not endorsed anybody yet in the congressional race.