Since Rep. Jane Harman announced her retirement, there's been a struggle to frame the battle between the top two candidates to replace her: Democrats Janice Hahn and Debra Bowen.

The standard frame would be moderate-vs.-liberal, but good luck finding a genuinely moderate position that either has taken in the last 10 years. That does not mean, however, that there's no difference between them. In fact, they represent two different constituencies within the Democratic Party.

Hahn's base is in labor, while Bowen represents the concerns of more affluent coastal Democrats. Today, the California League of Conservation Voters ratified that interpretation by endorsing Bowen.

“Debra has a much longer record on the environment,” said David Allgood, CLCV's Southern California director. “We know her to be a leader that doesn't knuckle under to pressure from special interests.”

Allgood said the League had taken note of Hahn's flip-flop-flip on the L.A. oil severance tax. She proposed the tax last fall, before changing her mind and trying to keep it off the ballot. When it went on the ballot anyway, she then supported it. (It narrowly failed.)

“One of the things we considered was the ability of somebody to put their finger in the wind and change positions that quickly,” Allgood said. “For her to have one position one day and the opposite position the next — that was a big concern.”

Allgood praised Bowen for opposing energy deregulation in the 1990s, and for her work to make the Playa Vista development more environmentally friendly. During her 14 years in the Legislature, Bowen earned a 96% lifetime score from the CLCV.

Dave Jacobson, a spokesman for Hahn, noted that Hahn had been a leader on the effort to reduce air pollution at the Port of Los Angeles.

“That's one of the most important environmental initiatives we've seen in this region ever,” Jacobson said. “She has created green jobs at the same time.”

Allgood said that Hahn had hit on the theme of green jobs during the endorsement interview, but, Allgood said, “there's more to the environment than that.”

LA Weekly