Harman Still Not Talking About Her Platform


In her first public appearance since announcing she would run for governor, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman promised to tell voters what she thinks. But only on or after March 6.

In what is at best a novel approach to campaigning, Harman appeared before the civic organization Town Hall Los Angeles but declined to address statewide concerns on the grounds that she had promised when the appearance was booked to talk about congressional issues.

Twice, when asked by audience members about her positions on state programs for the rehabilitation of prisoners and on the proliferation of handguns, the Democrat declined to state her views. “I don’t want to answer questions at the state level right now,” she told the audience.


Later, asked for clarification by reporters, Harman said she would begin to make her views known at her formal campaign kickoff March 6.

It was the second consecutive occasion at which Harman has declined to offer even the most basic details about her campaign. The first came Feb. 4, when she announced her candidacy for governor but refused to discuss her views on the issues--or even which issues she believes are important, beyond education and abortion rights.

Harman’s entry into the race came on the final day allowed for filing, and she acknowledged that she is still rushing to catch up with previous entrants, Republican state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and Lt. Gov. Gray Davis and businessman Al Checchi, both Democrats.

In recent days, the congresswoman has been filming television ads that will soon be on the airwaves, and her minuscule campaign staff has been scrambling to replicate in a few months what most candidates spend years planning.

Despite Harman’s reticence, a few strategic imperatives could be gleaned from her Wednesday appearance. She took great pains, for example, to appeal to non-Democrats in her speech, a trait that will be important if she is to win the Democratic nomination in the open June primary, in which members of any party can vote for any candidate. Twice, she boasted of her appeal to Republicans, whom she has had to court in her South Bay district.

“I just want to say how flattered I was in the last election to be introduced as the best Republican in the Democratic Party,” she told several hundred civic leaders at the downtown Los Angeles meeting. “I accept.”


She also indicated that a major theme in her campaign will be claiming a measure of credit for California’s economic resurgence--credit already seized by President Clinton, Gov. Pete Wilson and a host of others.

“I have played a role in California’s spectacular economic recovery, and now the goal is--and I think it’s something I can help achieve as governor--to make sure that the prosperity continues and to make every Californian a stakeholder in that recovery,” she said.

Harman would not contrast herself with the other candidates in the race. She said that she entered the contest after “numbers of people came to me and suggested this is an opportunity for the state, not for Jane but for the state.”

“I very carefully assessed what it could mean, and I’ve obviously given up a lot by not running for reelection in what was considered to be a reasonably safe seat,” she said.