Opinion: Rep. Diane Watson is feeling the heat (updated)

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Rep. Diane Watson, who represents much of core Los Angeles in the House, is among the prominent black Democrats being leaned on to switch her allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama -- pressure that has intensified since the much-publicized decision by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia to do precisely that.

Watson is one of a handful of African-American Clinton supporters -- who also are superdelegates to the party nominating convention -- who lament, in a story, the heavy-handed lobbying on Obama’s behalf by unnamed forces.

“I’ve gotten threatening mail,” Watson says in the piece. ‘They say, ‘Your district went 61-29 (percent) Obama and you need to change.’ But I don’t intimidate. I can hold the ground. … I would lose my seat over my principles.”


We don’t doubt that that’s the case, but there’s at least a slight bit of bravado in Watson’s comment. If she was going to get bounced from office for sticking with Clinton, it would happen through a primary challenge. And California’s 2008 primary, of course, has already come and gone.*

*Update: Actually, California has not held its 2008 congressional primary; the February 4 ballot was for presidential contenders. Congressional seats will be in play in California’s June 3 primary; the filing deadline for candidates is March 7. It remains to be seen if a serious challenger to Watson will emerge.

Watson will win re-election this November ...

in one of the nation’s most heavily Democratic districts. And by the time the 2010 primary rolls around, an Obama-Clinton rift likely will be ancient history for most in the party, regardless of how this campaign plays out.

Watson’s steadfast support for Clinton is hardly surprising. Indeed, she is linked to her in the way that helped Clinton build what so many assumed was going to be an unbeatable juggernaut -- and still may help her nab the nomination.

Watson had been term-limited out of the state Senate seat she had held for many years after the 1998 election. But the very next year, then-President Bill Clinton named her ambassador to Micronesia. That’s the job she gave up to return to Los Angeles in early 2001 to win the special election for the House seat that opened with the passing of longtime incumbent Julian Dixon.

In another sign of the crosscurrents set off by the unexpectedly strong political position Obama finds himself in, a well-regarded black sorority felt compelled to issue a statement this week aimed at putting to rest speculation that it had endorsed Clinton.


The release from Delta Sigma Theta, founded in 1913 at Washington’s Howard University, said it ‘does not endorse candidates for political office; it has not endorsed Senator Clinton; and, it will not endorse any candidate.’

You can read the entire release here.