Candidates for Rep. Waxman's seat rush to collect endorsements, money

More than a week after Rep. Henry A. Waxman touched off a political earthquake with his retirement announcement, aftershocks are rippling across his Westside-South Bay district.

State Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance and former L.A. Controller Wendy Greuel, two Democrats who jumped in to vie for the seat shortly after Waxman said he wouldn't seek another term, have put together prestigious campaign teams and were racing to lock up endorsements. They've also been raising money.

Attorney Barbara Mulvaney, another Democrat, joined the contest last week as a first-time candidate.

So far, no Republican has joined the race, although Bill Bloomfield, who was a GOP member before dropping a party preference and challenging Waxman in 2012, said he is pondering another try.


Bestselling author Marianne Williamson and TV producer and director Brent Roske entered the contest as independents well before the 74-year-old Waxman decided to step down.

Other potential candidates are weighing their prospects in the strongly Democratic district.

Stretching from Beverly Hills and Malibu down the coast through the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the 33rd Congressional District contains some of Southern California's most politically active voters and some of the most generous contributors to left-leaning candidates and causes. The first test for the Democratic candidates will come Sunday, when they jostle for a shot at their party's endorsement.

To be considered for an endorsement at the state party's convention next month, a candidate must win support from at least half of the local activists meeting in Van Nuys. By late Friday, only Greuel and Lieu had asked to be considered, but party rules allow requests until the meeting begins at 2 p.m.

The party is not obliged to make an endorsement.

Both of the seasoned Democrats vying for Waxman's seat face challenges, observers say.

For Lieu, that is connecting with voters in the north end of the district, where he is less known than in the South Bay, where he lives, said Democratic strategist Parke Skelton, who is not employed by any candidate in this contest. Skelton said two-thirds of the ballots historically have come from this more strongly Democratic and liberal part of the district.

Lieu's state Senate district overlaps much of the congressional district, but he was elected before political maps were redrawn for the 2012 races, and his base is in the less strongly Democratic, and more moderate, South Bay.

Greuel is better known in the northern part, which includes sections of the city of Los Angeles, where she ran a high-visibility race for mayor last year. That race raised her profile but left her a little bloodied, Skelton said. He cited her controversial backing from a Department of Water and Power union and the loss of Republican votes in her home territory, the San Fernando Valley.

"She has some fence-mending to do," Skelton said.

Former GOP strategist Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the nonpartisan California Target Book, said that Williamson, a well-known spiritual teacher with backing from the entertainment community, could cut into Greuel's support, particularly among women.

"Marianne Williamson will probably do more damage to Greuel than to Lieu," Hoffenblum said, citing Williamson's Westside base, her celebrity and her proven ability to raise money. She has brought in about $350,000, her campaign filings show.

But Greuel moved quickly to capture endorsements from female officeholders and women's groups. Last week, she announced backing from state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and Emily's List, a national organization that helps elect Democratic women.

And in an email fundraising appeal last week, she named other female officeholders who support her, including Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) and Los Angeles Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

She also has strong ties to the Westside's politically active Jewish community. She does not live in the district, but that is not required of congressional candidates, and Greuel has said she would move. Williamson does not live in the district either, and has also said she was likely to move into it.

Greuel's campaign is headed by Ace Smith and Sean Clegg of SCN Strategies, the San Francisco firm that has worked with such successful candidates as Harris, Gov. Jerry Brown and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has endorsed Greuel.

Lieu's endorsements from two Los Angeles councilmen, Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, could help him make inroads on the Westside. A former member of the Torrance City Council and the state Assembly, Lieu was the first to enter the race and capped his announcement with endorsements from more than 25 local officials and community leaders.

He rolled out additional endorsements last week, including one on Friday from Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

Democratic strategists Bill Carrick, who helped steer Eric Garcetti's win over Greuel in the L.A. mayoral race last year, and Gale Kaufman, who managed Lieu's successful runs for the Legislature, are overseeing his congressional campaign.

Greuel and Lieu have been using the online fundraising organization ActBlue, which helps individual donors make contributions to Democratic candidates. By week's end, ActBlue tallies showed, Greuel had collected about $69,000 and Lieu had received more than $13,000 through the site.

The field of potential candidates narrowed Friday when three Democrats — Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, state Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills and Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica — announced they would not run.