The announcement by Congressmember Jane Harman that she is stepping down from her seat in the 36th Congressional District has raised a lot of issues. The growing LA progressive movement began lobbying Marcy Winograd to jump in. Winograd, a teacher at Crenshaw High, has twice caused Harman concern with her strong challenges to the seat. Marcy is also a leader in the powerful Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party and co – founder of Progressive Democrats Of Los Angeles.
LA City Councilmember Janice Hahn was the first to declare her candidacy for the seat. She quickly followed that up with endorsements from key political power brokers such as Mayor Villaraigosa and Congressmember Karen Bass. California Secretary Of State Debra Bowen entered the race a few weeks later.
To up the ante, Hahn demanded that Bowen sign a “loyalty oath to Israel”. This caused much angst to progressives, who were concerned about Harman’s lobbying efforts to stop a Justice Department investigation of two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee staffers who were charged with handling classified information. Many wondered if some members of Congress are more loyal to Israel than their own country.
Bowen took the bait from Hahn and signed the “loyalty oath”. This caused Winograd to enter the race because of her concern about the powerful influence that Israel has over American politics. This played right into Hahn’s hand, hoping to cause a split in the progressive vote. Bowen took a strong stand in support of HR 6045, the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act. The Democratic National Committee overwhelmingly endorsed HR 6045 last weekend.
Republican Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb has entered the race and at least one more Republican candidate is expected to join in the contest. Proposition 14, which calls for open primaries, was passed in June 2010. This makes it possible for two Republicans or two Democrats to run against each other in the general election. This raises concern in the Democratic Party that a three-way split among the Democratic candidates might allow for two Republicans to enter the general election with no Democratic challenge. This could mean that the 36th CD seat could be lost to a Republican at a time when Democrats are the minority in the House of Representatives.
Proposition 14 requires that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. The new system will take effect in the April 19, 2011 special election for State Senate, District 28.
Specifically, Proposition 14 provides for a “voter-nominated primary election” for each state elective office and congressional office in California. Voters can vote in the primary election for any candidate for a congressional or state elective office without regard to the political party affiliations of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates can choose whether or not to have their political party affiliation displayed on the ballot.
Proposition 14 prohibits political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties will be allowed to endorse, support or oppose candidates. Elections for presidential candidates, and for members of political party committees and party central steering committees do not fall under the “top two” system.
In light of the lack of support that Winograd receives from the status quo in the Democratic Party, she still manages to be a formidable candidate. I wonder if it is time for her to consider running as an independent. It might be too late for that now, but the progressive movement is already discussing the relevancy of supporting a party that it considers to be “Republican light”; heavy on funding dictators with our tax dollars, supporting a bloated military-industrial complex, creating legislation that cuts social services to the poor while sustaining tax breaks for the wealthy, and pandering to Wall Street.
President Obama plans to spend over $1 billion on his 2012 campaign. A 1971 song titled “If You Dance to the Music, You Got to Pay the Piper,” by Chairman of the Board comes to my mind. Corporations donate to both Republican and Democratic candidates and reap the benefits from both parties. I support Common Cause’s movement for public campaign financing.