Thu, Aug

The 36th District: Humdinger of a House Race

ALPERN AT LARGE - We had a real humdinger of a House race, which ended up with Jane Harman being replaced by Janice Hahn.  The names even sound alike, and the last names both begin with HA.  As in HA-HA.

Please pardon me, though, if I don’t feel like laughing.  This was a race that never should have been, and now that it's over there's a bitter taste in most voters’ mouths.  The three main characters in this race all deserve to feel like winners, and I wish them and all the other characters the best--but they were all losers as well.

This was the first race under the “top two” election rules that Californians will either enjoy or endure (depending on your perspective), and which was especially important because the 36th California House Congressional District is more of a swing district than most, and will be especially impacted by redistricting for next year’s rematch.

(Want to find out how the votes really were distributed?  Check here.)

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the redistricting is a legacy of Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Abel Maldonado, the ex-governor and ex-lieutenant governor whose legacy was both simultaneously rejected and strengthened last November when the voters chose a completely Democratic leadership panel…but with a Republican voting record on a critical series of voter propositions.

Redistricting (as well as the “top two” election process) was and is meant to elect more moderates, and to make candidates more responsive to voters of both parties.  Unfortunately, the most well-connected and well-funded candidates did anything BUT be responsive to voters of both parties, which is rather shocking because the 36th District has both liberal Venice and the conservative (but less populated) South Bay.

Arguably, the very need for this race caught people off guard.  Jane Harman was probably the best person to represent the 36th District, in that she was a truly conservative and pragmatic representative who never chose ideology over reality in how she voted and promoted policy.  The far right and far left probably resented if not downright despised her, which meant she did her job—both pro-environmental and pro-defense jobs and priorities needed her support, and she consistently delivered.

Unfortunately, as much as I admire former Representative Harman, and will forever be grateful for her support of extending the Green Line to LAX and to the South Bay, and to trying to limit-set the overabundance of large jets that are increasingly exploiting and misusing Santa Monica Airport, I think she has enough intellectual honesty to admit that the timing of her resignation to become CEO of the bipartisan think tank known as the Woodrow Wilson Center was pretty horrible.

Right after the 36th District voters elected her to another two years, she resigned, and then came others who—sadly enough—forgot which district they were campaigning for.  Either that or they were blinded by ideology.  Perhaps they were overly influenced by the sleazy gnomes who pose as political consultants and who forget that “standing for something” and “having principles” still carries sway with the voters.

In the primary, Venice Democrat and Secretary of State Debra Bowen discovered that being extra sharp and smart doesn’t translate to wisdom of message or actions when she lurched to the left, sent out hateful messages that completely insulted Republican and other conservatives, and ended up losing to a well-funded and energetic Craig Huey.  I can only hope that Ms. Bowen, one of the smartest politicians in Sacramento, is still capable of respecting and appealing to all voters when it comes time for future elections.

In both the primary and the runoff, however, Craig Huey was just as ideologically-tilted, but with a right-wing lurch that was made entirely less palatable by his complete inaccessibility to the grassroots community and the press and talk radio entities who just wanted to know who he was and what he stood for (beyond the lower taxes/less government rhetoric).

Huey’s opinion and approach to the transportation and environmental issues around Santa Monica Airport and LAX?  Not talking.  Huey’s plans to revitalize and promote jobs in the LAX and Westside and South Bay regions?  Not interested, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t get him to come across as a human being you could talk to.

Craig Huey deserves to feel like a winner because of his shocking primary victory over Debra Bowen, and his presence required both Presidents Obama and Clinton to unleash their resources to help defeat him.  However, unless redistricting really hands Mr. Huey a golden ticket, he’ll be vulnerable at next year’s 36th District rematch with newly-elected Representative Janice Hahn if all he’s got are the same old sound bites.

And speaking of Janice Hahn and next year’s rematch, it’s hoped that she recognizes the rather low margin of victory she got over Craig Huey, and that if redistricting has her lose Venice and gain Palos Verdes, she’s toast unless she can get off her own campaigning addiction to sound bites.

While not falling into the trap of “lions, and tigers, and Republicans—oh, my!” that sunk Debra Bowen, campaigning that Craig Huey would end a woman’s right to choose was a pandering insult to all men and women who are aware that the Senate, not the House, votes to approve Presidential appointees to the Supreme Court.

And the “green jobs” thing?  Just about everyone but the political elite (who apparently reside in their own private echo chamber) is aware that the hucksterism and spinning to date hasn’t translated into green jobs really pulling us out of our economic doldrums.  We can legitimately complain that tax subsidies to either the "oil lobby" or the “green lobby" are morally wrong, but if they’re taken away it’s only the oil industry that will survive in the real world of capitalism.

That reality may bother some, but now Representative Janice Hahn has to run on a record, and she can be pro-environmental while emphasizing a “green” approach that favors economic growth over sound bites that are as empty as was Craig Huey’s.  Revitalizing LAX and establishing the Century Blvd. Corridor as a jobs corridor that is focused on international trade and tourism, supporting South Bay defense industries and lionizing Measure R transportation projects are a good start.

Balancing the national budget and protecting taxpayers wouldn’t hurt, too.  After all, she is now Jane Harman’s true successor, and will either survive or be tossed out after next year’s redistricting if she doesn’t start acting like it.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently cochairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)   -cw

Tags: Jane Harman, Janice Hahn, Craig Huey, Debra Bowman, 36th Congressional District, Representative, redistricting,

Vol 9 Issue 57
Pub: July 19, 2011