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The District of the Disassociated

RANDOM LENGTHS - The 36th Congressional District, as it is configured today, is one of those ill-conceived political creations made out of the stalemate between the Democrats and Republicans in the State of California. It represents no one well.
From Venice down through the Beach Cities of the South Bay ––avoiding the bastion of conservatism on the Peninsula––it works its way down to the San Pedro Harbor Area while leaving a shoestring along the coast that connects Huntington Beach and the Hill. The perfect political trade-off! And for a decade now, voters in both the 36th and 46th districts have not been enamored with this deal nor the kind of representation it provides either district.

Jane Harman, the hawkish Dem from Venice, traded liberal values to maintain her position in the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee, while Dana Rohrabacher, the Congressman from Huntington Beach, famously drank tea with the Afghan Taliban fighting the Soviets and who has been more of a Libertarian and a disappointment than a Republican. They were or are kind of “odd fellows” of political arrangement. California’s Citizens Commission on Re- districting hopes to change this, but meanwhile we are left with the districts “as is.”

Harman resigned a few months after being reelected last November, thank you very much Jane, which triggered the May 17 special election. It now appears L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn has topped the 16 other candidates in this race with 24.66 percent of the vote against Craig Huey’s 24.66 and Debra Bowen’s 21.48—as of May 18 there are 9,000 ballots left uncounted. Someone is going to be very unhappy with the final count, but then only 15.54 percent of the voters turned out to cast ballots.

What surprised Hahn’s campaign was the pre-election rise of Huey’s poll numbers from an initial 3 percent to a neck-and-neck tie with Secretary of State Debra Bowen, ahead of Mike Gin (7.78%) the popular Redondo Beach mayor and the only openly gay Republican in the race.

Huey’s rise from obscurity is not so surprising given that he has spent the past two decades planning direct mail campaigns and building his online base of Libertarian and conservative Christian voters. He runs three voting guide websites, including judgevoterguide.com, which advises, “do not vote for a judicial activist." This will be a clear choice if Hahn faces Huey in the run-off.

What is more curious about this 36th district is not so much how the Democrats outnumber the Republicans nearly 2 to 1, but that of all of the 347,812 registered voters, the “decline to state” party affiliated voters are the third largest block with 22.27 percent.

The disadvantage of running for office in this gerrymandered district is that it groups three different natural communities and umpteen cities or parts there of into one district, placing community organizing with a challenge, behind high priced direct mail targeted campaigns.

Further complicating this political infrastructure is the lack of news publications covering the entire district. At odds to this artificial construction is obvious. The San Pedro Bay communities are not part of what generally is called “the South Bay.” Just think for a moment what that term really means, the south part of which bay? That would be the Santa Monica Bay—look at it on a map. It ends at Point Vincente and the region east of there has more to do environmentally, politically and economically with the Los Angeles Harbor and San Pedro Bay than it does anything else. Yet, for simplicities sake we are thrown into this amalgam of South Bay.

It is also quite obvious to even the casual bystander that social-political culture of the San Pedro Bay region is distinctly different in almost every way to the Beach Cities and perhaps only has the most affinity to part of Playa del Rey near the LAX and Venice. If only Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach and Torrance could be their hamlet of conservatism and we could move Venice 20 miles closer to Pedro.

As things may be in this round of the run-off Janice Hahn will have her work cut out to prove that she really, really wants to be in Congress. And after raising and spending more than $400,000 in the primary election, there may be national attention to this race if the Christian conservative Huey squeaks past Bowen to be Hahn’s contender.

Hahn’s not taking anything for granted with this primary win, nor should those concerned about the balance of power in Congress consider her a shoe-in. The worst of all scenarios would be to have a right-wing Christian Teabagger representing us in the capital. God forbid that should happen.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News. More of Allen … and other views and news at  randomlengthsnews.com where this column was first posted) -cw

Vol 9 Issue 41
Pub: May 24, 2011