Toyota USA's planned move from Torrance to Texas spilled Tuesday into the heated race to succeed retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills).
Author and radio talk show host Matt Miller, a Democrat, said a rival, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), should have known about the giant automaker's exit plans.
"How can it be that a relocation of one of our district's major employers caught state Sen. Ted Lieu and other public officials by surprise?" Miller asked in a statement released by his campaign.
Miller then promised that, if he were elected, "a relocation of a major employer would never take me by surprise. I'll be in close, continual touch with senior excecutives at the big employers in our district, working to head off any concerns with creative problem-solving."
Nonsense, said Lieu campaign strategist Bill Carrick.
Toyota kept its plans secret because they knew there would bw "tremendous push-back" from Lieu and other area officials, Carrick said.
"It's just a shame Matt Miller is trying to exploit this economic tragedy for his own political purposes," Carrick said.
On Monday, the day Toyota announced its move, which will cost about 3,000 jobs locally, Lieu said in a statement he was "really angry" and that "nothing prepared any of us for this surprise announcement."
Lieu added that his office would "do everything it can to help these families and friends during this difficult transition for our community."
Miller, a first-time candidate who worked in the Clinton White House, is trying to position himself as a political outsider with the policy chops to be an effective replacement for Waxman, who is retiring from the 33rd District seat after 40 years in Congress.
Lieu and former Los Angeles city controller Wendy Greuel are the only two of the 18 candidates on the ballot who have held major elected office.
Only the first- and second-place finishers on the June 3 primary ballot, regardless of any party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.