Janice Hahn Victory Would Give Organized Labor More Clout

Rep. Janice Hahn, left, celebrates a port truckers contract in 2013 with Maria Elena Durazo, then head of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.EXPAND
Rep. Janice Hahn, left, celebrates a port truckers contract in 2013 with Maria Elena Durazo, then head of the L.A. County Federation of Labor.
Office of Rep. Hahn / via Flickr

Rep. Janice Hahn announced this morning that she is running for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Hahn would replace Don Knabe, a Republican who has served on the board since 1996, and who is termed out next year.

If Hahn is elected, organized labor would gain a solid three-vote majority on the board. Mark Ridley-Thomas was elected in 2008 with $8 million in support from labor groups. Hilda Solis, a longtime labor ally and a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, joined the board last year.

Hahn has an equally strong record of union support. She was one of the most reliable allies of city worker unions during her tenure on the L.A. City Council. She hails from San Pedro, a labor stronghold thanks to its proximity to the Port of Los Angeles.

"Labor is gonna be supportive of her," said John Shallman, Hahn's political consultant. "I wouldn't characterize her as being a knee-jerk pro-labor vote."

Democrats have had a majority on the board for decades, but some of the Democratic board members were fairly skeptical of labor. Zev Yaroslavsky, who was termed out last year, was known as a fiscal hawk. Gloria Molina, also termed out last year, was a very progressive Democrat but often clashed with union leaders.

With greater labor support on the board, unions might have an advantage in contract negotiations with county employees, Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracts and living-wage ordinances.

As often happens, Hahn's announcement set off a domino effect. An hour later, Isadore Hall, who was just elected to the state Senate, announced that he would run for Hahn's seat in Congress, with Hahn's support. Hall briefly ran against Hahn for Congress in 2011, when Hahn's district was redrawn, before dropping out and endorsing Hahn.

A few hours after Hall's announcement, former Assemblyman Steve Bradford announced he would seek Hall's seat in the state Senate. Bradford briefly ran against Hall in a special election last year, before he dropped out and endorsed Hall. Bradford has already lined up the endorsements of Hall and Hahn for Senate. All very tidy.

Former Redondo Beach Mike Gin, a moderate Republican, also announced today that he will run against Hahn for the seat on the Board of Supervisors. In a statement, he blasted Hahn for leaving her seat in Congress after less than four years in office.

"Hahn’s decision to give up her seat in Congress to be a candidate in the Supervisor’s race is a disservice to her constituents and our region," Gin wrote. "Hahn clearly cannot be trusted to put public service ahead of her own political career goals."

Gin worked for Knabe as a field deputy for eight years. He also ran in the May 2011 special election for Congress, which Hahn won. He finished fifth.

Knabe's district has become increasingly Democratic since he was elected 20 years ago. The district runs along the southern portion of the county, from Marina del Rey through Long Beach to Diamond Bar.

Hahn's campaign produced a turnout model that suggests the district is ripe for a Democratic pickup. According to the model, Democrats would have a five-point advantage over Republicans in a June 2016 election. That advantage would expand to 18 points in a November 2016 runoff, when the presidential race would also be on the ballot, according to the model.

Update: In an interview, Mike Gin drew a contrast between himself and Hahn on the labor issue.

"I think it’ll be important for the next supervisor to have a sense of independence and fiscal responsibility," Gin said.

Gin said his record on the Redondo Beach City Council showed that he was willing "to say no when it's necessary."


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