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18 file to replace Harman in 36th Congressional District

The May 17 special primary is the first congressional contest under California's 'top two' system and could see two members of the same party in a runoff.

March 26, 2011|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times

Eighteen people have filed papers to succeed former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) in what is already a lively, widely watched contest.

Los Angeles County election officials said five Democrats, six Republicans and seven others met the 5 p.m. Friday deadline. The roster will be finalized within the next few days once officials check to see whether all the paperwork for the would-be candidates is in order.

The election is the first congressional contest to be conducted under California's new "top two" elections system, approved by voters last year. If no candidate wins a majority in the May 17 special primary, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, will compete in a July 12 runoff.

Although there have been some special elections for seats in the Legislature under the new system, none has produced a runoff with two members of the same party. Some observers believe that may happen in this race.

The 36th Congressional District, which stretches south along the coast from Venice and Mar Vista through the South Bay beach cities and includes Torrance, Lomita and parts of the Los Angeles harbor area, is heavily gerrymandered in favor of Democrats, who hold a 45%-28% registration edge over Republicans. Twenty-two percent of voters are unaffiliated with any of the state-recognized political parties.

Some of those who filed for the office do not live in the district, public records show, including one who lives in the Central Valley city of Madera. District residency, however, is not required for congressional candidates.

The best known Democrats are Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, 58, who was the first to jump into the race; California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, 55, who represented much of the same area as the congressional district during her 14 years in the Legislature; and anti-war activist and high school teacher Marcy Winograd, 57, who twice mounted substantial primary challenges to Harman.

The more politically prominent Republicans include two Redondo Beach elected officials — Mayor Mike Gin and City Atty. Mike Webb, both 48 — and Hermosa Beach City Councilman Patrick "Kit" Bobko, 41.

Two minor-party candidates filed, as did five people who are listed as having no party preference, a sore point among those who belong to political organizations not recognized by the state.

A complete list of those who filed is available on the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder/county clerk's website, http://www.lavote.net.

Harman's announcement last month that she was resigning to lead a Washington think tank surprised constituents and many of her supporters, who had just elected her to another two-year term in November.

jean.merl@latimes.com

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