For Janice Hahn, today’s swearing-in ceremony will be especially sweet because she knows what it’s like to lose.
The newest Member of the California delegation ran unsuccessfully for her seat back in 1998. But she’s not bitter about the loss.
“I’m one of those that believes all things happen for a reason,” she said.
After losing that race, Hahn became a member of Los Angeles’ Charter Reform Commission and then the Los Angeles City Council.
While serving as a councilwoman, Hahn worked to reach compromises on local issues ranging from the environment to job creation to improving wages and benefits. She says it’s a model she plans to bring to Congress.
“That’s the best way of governing,” she said, “trying to bring all sides together.”
Hahn’s time as a councilwoman was heavily influenced by her first role model: her father, Kenny Hahn, who served as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for 40 years. Hahn says her father was dedicated to the job, even inviting constituents to visit him at home on weekend mornings.
“He really believed government was there to make people’s lives better,” she said. “I think that’s going to be my style.”
Hahn has another role model on the importance of connecting with her constituents: her predecessor.
She said she admires former Rep. Jane Harman, who resigned in February to join the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, for the way she handled the diverse interests of the district.
“She was good about representing her district and making sure that those jobs stayed here,” she said.
Hahn said keeping and bringing jobs to her district will be a major issue for her, although it’s not always easy to reconcile that with her other goals.
She noted that many of her constituents want to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a goal she supports, but many of those who work in the aerospace industry are reliant on defense spending.
“I want to figure out how to really get the economy back up and running,” she said, “and I want to bring good jobs back up to California.”
For Hahn, a big part of reviving the economy is putting more resources into infrastructure.
“I’m really looking to push anything I can to improve the infrastructure in this country,” she said, explaining that she wants to become a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It can revive the economy. It can put people back to work.”
During her time as a councilwoman, Hahn fought to modernize and improve infrastructure within her own county, including the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport.
She said she intends to support the America Fast Forward initiative, which seeks to create jobs without affecting the federal deficit through loans and bonds for transportation and infrastructure investments.
While focusing on job creation, Hahn wants to pay attention to opportunities to go green through the utilization of technology and the growth of jobs in the clean-energy industry.
“I think we’re the perfect place to begin expanding that industry,” she said.
Hahn also plans to tackle veterans’ issues during her time in Congress, including unemployment and homelessness. “While I’m pushing for us to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I want to focus on what happens when our veterans come home,” she said.
With these issues on her mind, Hahn said she is ready to get started, despite recently finishing an election that she described as “the most difficult, hard fought victory I have ever had.”
“It battle-tested me in ways that I hadn’t been yet,” she said.