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Obama makes surprise visit to Ted Lieu for Congress headquarters

Obama makes surprise visit to Ted Lieu for Congress headquarters
President Barack Obama, right, talks with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) during a visit to the campaign office State Senator Ted Lieu, left, who is running for Congress. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Obama made a surprise stop Thursday at the Venice campaign headquarters for state Sen. Ted Lieu, who is running for Congress.

Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance who is favored to succeed retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) in the Nov. 4  election, was greeting volunteers with Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York), head of  the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, when Lieu got word Obama was about to show up.

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"I was surprised and thrilled," Lieu said in an interview later, adding he had about 10 minutes' notice before Obama walked through the door, trailing staff and reporters.

Israel is in California to help Democrats in tight congressional races rally voters as mail balloting begins this week.

He and Lieu  had planned to greet workers who were making telephone calls to support Democratic Reps. Julia Brownley of Westlake Village and Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, and Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who is running for an open Inland Empire seat currently in Republican hands.

Entering the second-floor building at 4:44 p.m., the president greeted volunteers.

"How's it going? How are you? Good to see you," he said.

"Thank you, guys. We only have a few weeks left and California is right at the heart of the battle for control of the House," Obama said, adding "the day-to-day work you're doing … it makes a difference. That's how I was elected."

Obama noted that Lieu had a "hard-fought primary," and told him that "state senators make outstanding members of Congress." Obama had been a state senator in Illinois and Lieu reminded him he had been an early supporter when Obama first ran for president in 2008.

"'That's because you knew I was a state senator,'" Lieu said the president responded.

Obama then made the rounds, joking that if he was not "directly shaking" a worker's hand, they should be making phone calls.

He spent about 15 minutes at the headquarters before his motorcade left Venice, with throngs of supporters lining the streets, en route to a fundraiser in Brentwood.

Follow @latseema and @jeanmerl for the latest in Southern California politics news.

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