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Endorsement: State Sen. Ted Lieu is best choice for 33rd Congressional District

Ted Lieu speaks during a candidates forum to succeed District 33 Representative Henry Waxman at Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills.
(Los Angeles Times)

The retirement of Henry Waxman after 40 years in the House of Representatives will mean a rare changing of the guard in California’s 33rd Congressional District, which links Rancho Palos Verdes and Torrance with Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu and Calabasas. It is a wealthy district and a heavily Democratic one, though it is not as homogenous — demographically or politically — as some might think.

The chance to replace Waxman drew 17 active candidates into the June primary. This page backed author-consultant-radio-host and policy wonk Matt Miller in that demolition derby, but he didn’t survive the top-two contest, which was won by Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu and L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Elan Carr, a Republican. Of the two, Lieu is the best choice, for reasons that are both pragmatic and political.
As today’s Republicans go, Carr is fairly moderate. He believes there are ways to be both pro-business and pro-environment, supports a vibrant public education system and recognizes the reality of global warming. He has tried to paint himself as a reasonable voice to help quiet the tea party, but as long as the House GOP remains beholden to its right wing, it is unlikely that a moderate Republican from California with little seniority will make much of a difference. Also, Carr has yet to detail the agenda he would pursue, relying instead on a collection of vague statements seemingly aimed at not offending voters from either party.

Lieu gave us pause during the primary for a similar reason. Where Miller’s blend of vision, policy and suggested programs was impressive, Lieu mostly trotted out his state Senate past, where he mixed thoughtful measures with lots of reactive legislation seemingly aimed more at scoring points with voters than addressing significant policy issues. But now Lieu has begun to flesh out his platform, on climate change (which he sees as an existential threat), Social Security, gay marriage and student loans. He opposes the federal government’s broad collection of private data. Many of his positions are standard Democratic fare, but in most cases they are the right ones. And his legislative experience gives him a leg up. He is the author, for instance, of SB 569, which requires police to videotape interviews with minors suspected of murder, and of SB 757, which closed a loophole out-of-state health insurers were using to discriminate against gay couples.
Though we didn’t agree with everything he did, Waxman was a leader in the House, a patient and relentless force to be reckoned with. It’s hard right now to see Lieu filling those shoes, but members of Congress often serve a long time. Lieu too might become an important national figure over the years.

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