Seniority and the Special Election

marcy winograd

Marcy Winograd

One thing’s for sure, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote in the upcoming special election to fill the seat of former congresswoman Jane Harman, the winner in all probability will go to the House of Representatives last in overall seniority or 435th out of 435 house members!

With Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) calling for a special election to fill the seat of former congressman Chris Lee on May 24th, the Democrats have a week’s head start to capture the 434th most senior position.

But in all likelihood Lee’s former seat will be captured by New York State Assemblyman Jane Corwin (R) while the Democrats are still searching for a candidate in what will be an uphill struggle.

With an 18-candidate pool and three viable Democrats (Winograd, Bowen & Hahn) and at least one competitive Republican (Webb), the probability of a run-off is almost certain giving the 434th spot to the winner of the New York race.

So regardless of prior elected experience, Secretary of State Bowen, Councilwoman Janice Hahn & Marcy Winograd will absolutely be last in overall seniority in the 112th Congress of the United States!

For Democrats, California has some key members with a high degree of seniority.

They include Pete Stark (#3), George Miller (#7), Henry Waxman (#8), Howard Berman (#23) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (#39).

While both parties use the seniority system, for the most part, the Democrats use it more than the Republicans.

For the ability to accumulate the longest unbroken terms of service will eventually land you as ranking member or chairman depending on the party’s overall status in the House.

marcy winogradIn the case of Jane Harman, that was not the case in choosing the chairman of Intelligence when Democrats last ruled the roost.

Pelosi bypassed Harman in the wake of Harman being wiretapped by federal investigators for supposedly trying to get the sentences of two pro-Israeli agents reduced in exchange for securing that committee’s chairmanship.

Instead, Pelosi tapped Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) who was much lower on the seniority totem poll than Harman.

Pelosi claims she passed on Harman as chairman because Democratic Rules limited her tenure on the committee to just two terms.

The wiretap, conducted by officials with NSA allegedly heard Harman offering to speak with the Justice Department about the charges against the agents who were employed by AIPAC.

With Harman reduced to ranking member, many believe that was the beginning of the end of her time on The Hill.

With Democrats losing control of the House in 2010, her exit seemed probable and for the most part, logical.

While Pelosi defended Harman throughout this issue, many believe their relationship chilled to a frost once the former speaker decided to hand the gavel to Reyes.

Given the fact that Bowen is a longtime elected official who served in leadership posts in the legislature and now as a statewide officeholder, why would you want to go to the US Congress last in seniority?

How will she effect change?

The same question needs to be asked of Hahn as well.

As one of just fifteen council members, Hahn is very powerful and a player in that “College of Cardinals” known as the Los Angeles City Council!

How does she expect to create jobs being dead last in seniority in a system that is processed through membership longevity?

In the case of Winograd, she’s never held public office and getting to Washington regardless of seniority seems to be her mission.

While the notion of prior experience usually plays well in an election such as this, it really won’t matter given the way the House operates and that’s good news for true progressives.

Nick Antonicello
Venice Beach

Published by the LA Progressive on April 9, 2011
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