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Candidates in 36th Congressional District clash in radio face-off

Democrat Janice Hahn and Republican Craig Huey have a spirited debate before Tuesday's election in their only meeting of the campaign.

July 08, 2011|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times
  • L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has raised more than $1 million and enlisted support from labor, environmental groups, women's organizations and the Democratic Party.
L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has raised more than $1 million and enlisted… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

It wasn't supposed to be much of a contest, but the race to succeed former Rep. Jane Harman in Congress has grown increasingly hot — and drawn more and more national attention — as Tuesday's balloting nears.

Republican businessman Craig Huey and Democratic L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn took shots at one another Thursday on Larry Mantle's "AirTalk" program on public radio station KPCC-FM (89.3), their only face-to-face meeting of the runoff campaign.

Huey called Hahn a "career politician"— she has served 10 years on the City Council — and blamed her and other Democrats for setting the country up for an "economic catastrophe." Hahn said Huey wants to protect "millionaires and billionaires" and big business at the cost of life-saving environmental and workplace safeguards.

The exchange came as national women's groups accused the Huey campaign of trying to discourage women from voting in the South Bay-based 36th Congressional District and the National Republican Congressional Committee touted an "update" of a discredited Fox News report that accused Hahn and a city gang intervention program of hiring and supporting active gang members. Hahn vigorously denied the report again Thursday.

When Hahn, 59, and Huey, 61, won spots on the runoff ballot, most observers predicted Hahn would not have a hard time winning the race to replace Harman, a Venice Democrat who resigned in February. Democrats hold an 18-point registration edge in the district, and observers said Huey's socially conservative views — he opposes abortion and gay marriage, for example — were out of step with the district's moderate voting patterns.

But Huey pumped nearly $800,000 of his own money into his campaign and rallied "tea party" activists and other conservatives to help spread his cut-government-spending, grow-jobs message. Hahn has raised more than $1 million and enlisted support from labor, environmental groups, women's organizations and Democratic Party leaders.

Women's groups on Thursday decried a pro-Huey radio commercial that they said was aimed at suppressing women's votes. The spot, paid for by the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee, encourages Huey supporters to help make the economy, not abortion rights, the key issue in hopes pro-choice voters will stay home.

"Women of California's 36th need to know what's at stake on July 12," Stephanie Schriock, president of the fundraising organization Emily's List said in a conference call.

Also Thursday, fallout from a since-discredited Fox TV news report again roiled the campaign. An "update" of the controversy — stemming from allegations Hahn and the city of L.A. gave money to active gang members — featured a gang member saying Hahn had intervened on his behalf when he was arrested, plus a statement from a city attorney who asked not to be identified.

The Huey campaign has distributed copies of the original report and the National Republican Congressional Committee told The Times' it has spent about $5,000 and sent text messages to voters directing them to the website it created about the updated report.

Mantle launched the "AirTalk" segment by asking Hahn about the report, which she said was based on a gang intervention program the city created with help from law enforcement and community members. She said her office had never given money to gang members and said her phone call to authorities was only to ask, at the request of his wife, whether the gang member in question was under arrest, not to intervene on his behalf.

The station that aired the reports said Hahn's campaign sent it a statement from Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck: "Janice Hahn is a champion in the fight against gangs and gang violence," the statement said. "The previous Fox 11 news report on this issue does not tell the right story. The bottom line is there is less gang crime today thanks to Janice Hahn."

jean.merl@latimes.com

Michael Memoli in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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