Voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect a member of Congress to represent California's 36th Congressional District, a South Bay area that is the bedroom community to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the historic home of much of this region's aerospace and related industries. The special election to fill the vacancy of departed Rep. Jane Harman has attracted a large and varied field. The Times endorses Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.
Hahn is not the only credible candidate in this race. Secretary of State Debra Bowen is her chief competitor, and both are solid, impressive public servants. Bowen has compiled a record of innovation and achievement in her current office, and before winning it had long represented much of this congressional district as a member of the Assembly and state Senate.
But we prefer Hahn on substance as well as style. She has been a dogged representative of her council district, a stalwart supporter of environmental protection and a leading advocate for job creation. Among other things, she led the council's efforts to modernize Los Angeles International Airport, an overdue project that will at last bring some amenities to the notoriously ugly and unimpressive gateway for so many of the region's visitors; just as important, it promises to create 39,000 jobs, from construction work to new airport services. Moreover, Hahn's charisma and intensity suggest her promise as a broker and policymaker in Washington, just as she has been in Los Angeles.
The field's other noteworthy candidates are Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin and Marcy Winograd, an antiwar activist who twice challenged Harman as a liberal alternative to the moderate congresswoman. This time, Winograd confronts more liberal opponents in Bowen and Hahn and thus offers less of a choice; against these opponents, her lack of experience is striking. Gin is a liberal Republican — yes, there still are some — and would capably represent this area.
Most attention is on the 36th this week, as it is rare for voters to get a chance to elect a member of Congress midterm. But another interesting contest will determine who gets the one open seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District board. In that race, which will appear only on some ballots, a mayor-aligned, heavily reform-oriented candidate is running in what has turned out to be a fractious campaign against a retired teacher who has the backing of the teachers union. In the March primary election, we endorsed Luis Sanchez, an aide to school board President Monica Garcia, as the stronger candidate, and he still is. That's not so much because of his willingness to follow the wishes of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — we actually wish there were more independent-minded candidates running for the board these days — but because he has a much sharper grasp of the issues confronting the schools than opponent Bennett Kayser, and well-honed thoughts about improving them.