Rep. Harman To Enter Governor's Race
By Marc Birtel, CQ Staff Writer
Democratic Rep. Jane Harman entered the race for California governor
Feb. 4, mindful of the fact that a woman has won the Democratic nomination
in her state's past two gubernatorial elections and its past three Senate
Harman, a moderate serving her third House term, made public her
decision just hours before the filing deadline for state candidates. She
said she planned to make an official announcement in California as early as
the week of Feb. 9.
Harman joined two Democrats, Lt. Gov. Gray Davis and former Northwest
Airlines chairman Al Checchi, in the contest to succeed two-term Republican
Gov. Pete Wilson, who cannot run again because of term limits.
State Attorney General Dan Lungren is the near-certain GOP nominee.
Also running, under the Green Party banner, is former Democratic Rep. Dan
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led in most polls, declined on
Jan. 20 to enter the race. In the ensuing two weeks, former White House
Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and state controller Kathleen Connell, both
Democrats, and Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, a Republican, declined
to enter the fray.
Harman said she originally wanted Feinstein to enter the race. She said
Feinstein's supporters eventually came to her, and she added that she hopes
to receive Feinstein's endorsement.
This year's election for governor is particularly important to both
parties because the winner will preside over the state's redistricting
process. With California projected to receive as many as two additional
congressional seats in the 2000 census, control becomes even more
Observers say Harman has shown an ability to build coalitions across
party lines. That could prove valuable as Harman aims to pull moderates of
both political stripes into her camp under California's new open
The June 2 primary will feature all the candidates on the same ballot,
regardless of party. Some say Harman will benefit in that contest from
personal wealth, which is mostly derived from her husband's consumer
electronics business. Harman spent a total of nearly $2.9 million
holding her House seat in 1994 and 1996.
But she may also benefit from being the only woman on the June ballot.
"It's no longer just an array of white men in gray suits," said political
analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of Claremont Graduate University.
Harman is not well-known outside her coastal 36th District in Los
Angeles County. She admits that her name recognition problem is daunting
but insists she can overcome it just as Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer,
herself a former House member, did in 1992.
The 36th was already politically competitive, but now it is likely to
become one of the hottest battlegrounds in the country. Democrats will have
to fight to hang on to the West Los Angeles coastal district, where
registration is about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
Susan Brooks, Harman's GOP opponent in 1994 and 1996, has announced
that she will make a third try. Brooks came within 812 votes of winning in
1994; she came to Washington anyway to join in post-election sessions with
the Class of 1994 even as a recount showed Harman the winner. Harman
defeated Brooks by 8 percentage points in 1996.
Brooks will face at least two other Republicans in the primary: state
Rep. Steve Kuykendall and Los Angeles City Councilman Rudy Svornich.
Democratic recruitment efforts have not been as fruitful so far. One of
their best hopes, State Rep. Debra Bowen, declined the race, opting to run
for state Senate instead. The only announced Democrat is Bob Pinzler, a
Redondo Beach City councilman.
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