Rep. Jane Harman will not endorse a successor, saying today that her new role as head of a foreign policy think tank compels her to be non-partisan.

At her first press conference since announcing her retirement, the South Bay congresswoman said she intends to make her resignation official next Tuesday. That would allow the special election to be consolidated with Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed statewide vote in June to extend tax increases.

L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn is the only major candidate who has declared so far.

She has already secured the endorsements of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several labor groups.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen is still weighing whether to jump in.

At the press conference, Harman said she had been approached after the November election about taking the helm of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, a centrist think tank previously run by Rep. Lee Hamilton. She acknowledged that “the timing isn't great,” but said “It wasn't my timing; it was their timing.”

Harman said she was looking forward to a new challenge after spending eight terms in Congress. In the hour-long meeting, she talked about a range of foreign policy topics, including the protests in Egypt and the challenges of Afghanistan, all the while dropping the names of major figures — such as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton — who had called her since her retirement was announced.

At her new job, she said she would be try to focus on developing a “legal and policy framework in the post-9/11 world,” both in the domestic sphere and internationally.

For example, she said, “The Geneva Conventions may need to be updated.”

That's the kind of statement that would have driven her liberal critics wild, but Harman doesn't have to worry about that any more. The think tank job, she said, would create “a safe political space where an in-depth discussion can take place.”

“It's a big candy store,” she said.

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