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Woo to Study at Harvard, May Seek Statewide Office Next Year

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Woo plans to leave town--temporarily--but will keep both feet planted firmly in electoral politics.

The former two-term Los Angeles City Council member, defeated by Richard Riordan in the recent mayor’s race, has accepted a fellowship for the fall semester at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Upon his return to full-time residency in Los Angeles in January, Woo said, he may seek one of several statewide offices. Possibilities include treasurer, controller, secretary of state or insurance commissioner; that action would be contingent on current Democratic officeholders not seeking reelection, as anticipated.

“I’m getting some encouragement to think about running for one of the statewide offices next year,” he said. “The decision to accept the fellowship doesn’t preclude any of those options.”

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Woo, 41, also said he would not rule out another run for mayor in four years.

Woo’s primary responsibility at Harvard will be to meet weekly with a group of students at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. He also plans to confer with Harvard professors and possibly audit some classes at the Cambridge, Mass.-based university.

“I’ll be looking back at my City Council career and my campaign for mayor and also looking forward,” said Woo, who gave up his Hollywood-area council seat to run for mayor this year.

The Kennedy School’s annual fellowship program recruits politicians, high-ranking appointed officials and former ambassadors who are in a period of transition after having quit their posts or been defeated in elections. Past participants have included top-level Clinton Administration appointees such as Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and presidential counselor David Gergen.

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The six fellows selected for the fall semester have not yet been formally announced, said program director Charles Royer. “But we look forward to having him,” Royer added.

Since his loss in June by a 54%-to-46% margin, Woo said he has had discussions about taking jobs in either the business or media sectors.

“But for now, I think this is the best choice for me,” he said. “The Harvard fellowship is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I plan to come back revitalized and re-energized.”

During his fellowship, Woo said, he will return to Los Angeles periodically and will also make speeches around the nation. Later this month, he said, he will speak on a panel at Stanford University with former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the topic “Who’s Responsible for America.”

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