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Harman Gave Hahn an Early Start

Kyle Trygstad/Roll Call
California special election candidate Janice Hahn (left) gets a stern warning against campaigning at the farmers market. Hahn, a Democrat running in the 36th district, was strolling through with the town’s mayor pro tem, who had just endorsed her.

Despite winning the backing of many top elected officials in the state and area, Hahn will not have a free ride in the election. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who was re-elected in November, represented the South Bay Area for six years in the Assembly and eight in the state Senate before being elected statewide in 2006.

Bowen, who built a wealth of goodwill with local voters over her 14 years in the Legislature, is counting heavily on that support. Speaking to the Beach Cities Democratic Club at a bagel shop in Manhattan Beach last week, Bowen assured the two-dozen club members that her work in the area was not forgotten.

“I have represented most of the people who live in the district,” Bowen said. “Now, it’s been a while. But they’ll remember.”

Two days later, sitting in one of her favorite Venice hangouts, Abbot’s Habit coffee shop, Bowen described her passion for the intersection between “technological developments and public policy, which always gives you issues that no one has thought about.”

Bowen’s first bill in the Assembly after her 1992 election was to put the Legislature’s business on what would later become widely known as the Internet. That led her down a path she never could have predicted, with a focus on tech policy.

“I’m a geek,” she said. “I’m not sure if there’s a geek caucus, but I’m definitely a geek.”

Hahn spoke to the Beach Cities club a few minutes after Bowen, as both are pushing hard for support among local activists. Members seemed impressed with both candidates, but club President Lorraine Geittmann, a former Congressional staffer, told Roll Call that Hahn “doesn’t have a lot of grass-roots support along this part of the coast,” which includes the independent cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

A few members even knew the name of Bowen’s cat, Maplethorpe, and Geittman said, “Everybody has a warm feeling about her.”

The candidates will face at least two other opponents in the primary, which will take place eight weeks prior to the special election date Gov. Jerry Brown (D) must call within the next 14 days. The seat can be won outright by taking more than 50 percent in the primary. Otherwise, the top two advance to the general.

Anti-war activist and teacher Marcy Winograd (D) entered the race Saturday in Torrance, making this her third run for the seat in the past five years. She held Harman to 59 percent in last year’s Democratic primary, a slight improvement over her 2006 showing. Winograd founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America and is likely to challenge Hahn and Bowen on their foreign policy stances.

The first indication of party support could come at the special endorsing caucus, which the state party chairman will call once the election date is set.

“The state and local delegates will get a vote,” Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman said. “With these three candidates it will be very divided, because they all come with strengths and bases of support.”

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