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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 elections.

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 Hamburg (1993-95).

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 critical.

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 primary.

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.

© 1998 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
In CQ News This Week

Saturday February 7, 1998

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Student Loan Program May Break The Bank
Rep. Harman To Enter Governor's Race
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