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Rep. Jane Harman to resign Tuesday to allow for June special election

Retiring Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) said Thursday that she would resign her House seat Tuesday to allow for a special election to replace her in early June.

Harman, who has been criticized for accepting a job with a Washington think tank so soon after winning reelection in November, said she wants to make the election “as inexpensive and as convenient for voters as possible” by allowing it to be held the same time as a potential statewide election on taxes.

She said she has had two conversations with Gov. Jerry Brown about the timing of her resignation. Once her seat is vacant, Brown can call a special election to be held within a specific time frame. He is hoping to ask voters in June to extend several expiring tax increases to help the state out of its budget deficit.

Harman told constituents Monday of her plans to leave Congress. On Tuesday, she was announced as the new head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She starts her new job Feb. 28.

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The 17-year House veteran made her remarks Thursday in a wide-ranging meeting with reporters in her El Segundo district office. She looked back on her congressional career and talked about what led to her “excruciating” decision to quit.

Harman, 65, said she had no idea when running for reelection that the Wilson Center position would be open and said it presented a “spectacular opportunity” for a “new chapter” in her career despite the fact that “the timing wasn’t great.”

She said the Republican takeover of Congress in the fall elections was not a factor in her decision. Democrats had been in the minority earlier in her tenure and she still had been “productive,” she said.

Harman would not rule out a future run for office, although she said that is “not in my plans.” Noting that she gave up her congressional seat in 1998 to run for governor and reclaimed it in 2000, Harman said she would “never say never.” She said she and her husband will maintain a home in her 36th Congressional District and vote there.

Harman’s announcement unleashed still-growing interest among would-be successors in the district. She said Thursday that she will not endorse a candidate because her new policy-shaping job “takes me into the nonpartisan world.”

Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat from San Pedro in the southern end of the district, announced she would run hours after Harman told her of her plans early Monday. Hahn has been lining up endorsements at a furious pace and has begun raising money in hopes of discouraging competition from fellow Democrats.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat who represented much of the area during her 14 years in the Legislature, said she is “very, very seriously” considering the race. Two lesser-known Democrats, perennial candidate Mervin Evans of Los Angeles and business consultant/educator Theodore “Ted” Crisell of Marina del Rey, said they would run.

Although Democrats hold a 45%-28% registration edge over Republicans in the district, several in the GOP have expressed interest. On Thursday, businessman and conservative Republican activist Craig Huey became the most recent when he announced that he has formed an “exploratory committee.”

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He lives on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, outside the district, but there is no district residency requirement for Congress.

jean.merl@latimes.com


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