Former Los Angeles city controller and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel said Thursday that she plans to run for the Congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Henry Waxman.
"When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that someone as powerful as Henry Waxman would be retiring. I knew instantly in my gut that this district, the 33rd district, and his position was something I knew I could make a difference in," Greuel said in an interview. "He's a fighter and that's who I've been and I want to do that in Congress."
Greuel said she received many phone calls and texts after Waxman's announcement urging her to run for the seat. She lives just outside the district, but plans to move into it soon, she said. (Members of Congress are not required to live in the district, although not doing so brings charges of carpetbagging from other challengers.)
Other potential candidates were state Sens. Ted Lieu of Torrance and Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills and Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica; Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a former South Bay lawmaker; local radio host Matt Miller; women's rights activist Sandra Fluke — all Democrats — and Manhattan Beach businessman Bill Bloomfield, an independent and former Republican who spent $7 million of his own money in an unsuccessful 2012 race against Waxman.
Greuel lauded Waxman's service on issues such as smoking, healthcare and veterans, saying that the 20-term congressman "stood up for those who didn't have a voice."
"He's going to be hard shoes to fill," Greuel said.
Greuel, a Los Angeles native, worked for former Mayor Tom Bradley and former President Bill Clinton and as a Hollywood executive, then served on the City Council and as controller before running for mayor.
She went into that contest with many advantages — deep-pocketed donors, broad backing from labor and business, and endorsements from top Democrats such as Clinton.
But in May, she lost to Eric Garcetti, who had successfully painted her as the pawn of labor, notably the union that represents many city Dept. of Water and Power workers.
Though she lost, private polling undertaken after the election showed that Greuel emerged with high name recognition and favorable views among voters.
For months after that race, Greuel weighed whether to run for the county Board of Supervisors seat being vacated by termed-out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, deciding earlier this month not to run because she said the timing was not right.
She said it was ultimately her "gut" that told her to run for Congress rather than the county board.
"This is where I can make a big difference. I have advocated as well about the importance of having more women in Congress," she said. "It really was my gut, this is where I can make a difference."