By the time Rep. Jane Harman made her departure official Tuesday, a robust field of potential candidates to succeed the Venice Democrat had surfaced. One already had hired a campaign staff, set up a website and begun raising money.
“You have to move quickly in this world,” said L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat from San Pedro who announced her candidacy and said she had her campaign up and running within two hours of receiving a phone call from Harman shortly after 7 a.m. Monday.
Harman’s appointment as president and chief executive of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was announced Tuesday, a day after the 16-year House of Representatives veteran sent an e-mail notifying constituents of her plans.
She begins her new job Feb. 28, and her departure will require a special election, most likely in June, when Gov. Jerry Brown wants to ask voters to extend some expiring tax increases to help the state out of its budget hole.
In an interview Tuesday, Harman said she was “pleased to see that some very talented people are interested” in running, but said she is “very unlikely to endorse” if the candidate field is large.
“If there are two candidates, one clearly sort of in the Harman tradition and one very different, I might endorse before I leave Congress,” Harman said.
Speculation that Harman favored Hahn to succeed her surfaced because Harman invited Hahn to the president’s State of the Union address last month. Hahn said Tuesday that Harman asked about her future plans, including whether she would ever be interested in the congressional seat. When the councilwoman, who must leave her city post in 2013 because of term limits, said she would be, Harman nodded but said nothing more, Hahn said.
Hahn’s main competition in the strongly Democratic 36th Congressional District could come from Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who said through a campaign aide that she was “very, very seriously considering” the race.
Bowen, a Democrat from Marina del Rey, represented much of the area during 14 years in the Legislature before she was elected to her current post in 2006. She was reelected last fall.
Another Democrat thinking about running is teacher and peace activist Marcy Winograd, who mounted primary challenges from the left against the moderate Harman in 2006 and again last year. She has since moved but still could run; there is no district residency requirement for Congress.
Perennial candidate Mervin Evans jumped in Tuesday. “I will seek the open seat,” he said in a statement.
Two Republicans have also expressed interest, despite the Democrats’ 45% to 28% registration edge in the district, which runs from Venice into San Pedro.
Redondo Beach City Atty. Mike Webb said Tuesday that he would decide in a few days whether to run. Mattie Fein of Venice, who lost to Harman last year, said through a campaign official that she was thinking about running.
John S. Thomas, who ran Fein’s campaign, said there is opportunity for a Republican who has the money to mobilize GOP voters if the Democratic vote is split among several candidates.
Hahn already is campaigning hard. She turned up at Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery’s “state of the city” breakfast speech on Tuesday, wearing a large “Hahn for Congress” button and stopping at every table to introduce herself, Montgomery said.
Her campaign issued a long list of endorsements from local officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Hahn said she learned a lesson about starting early from former Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who announced shortly after the death last year of state Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) that he would run to succeed her. After Lieu sewed up endorsements and contributions, Hahn and several others backed off.
Lieu is heavily favored to win next week’s special election to replace Oropeza.