Rep. Jane Harman taking an early exit


Word is out that Jane Harman (D-CA) has accepted the opportunity to head up the Woodrow Wilson Center. It will set up a special election to fill her seat back in her district, and will give the Democrats an empty seat on the plum Energy and Commerce Committee.

Harman was peripherally in the news not too long ago when her husband, Sidney, bought troubled periodical Newsweek.

Harman has served California’s 36th District since 1993, with one term off in a failed pursuit of the governorship of the state.

Harman is not only a member of Energy and Commerce, she is also on the key Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

According to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, California will have to hold a special election to fill the seat within about four months of her exit. It will be a “jungle primary” in which all comers are on a single ballot, with a run-off election to pick between the top two finishers.

The anything-goes format could pose a problem for the Democratic Party when it attempts to hold a seat in a district that voted in increasingly large numbers for Democratic presidential candidates. It picked Al Gore over George W. Bush 50.7% to 44.3%, John Kerry over George W. Bush 59% to 39.6%, and Barack Obama over John McCain 64.4% to 33.5%.

The 36th District runs along the beach areas of Los Angeles County.

RBR-TVBR observation: Harman is a known to be a conservative as Democrats go, so this gives the Democrats an opportunity to replace her with a candidate closer to party orthodoxy on some issues. It also gives Republicans an opportunity for a steal, especially in California’s open special election format. For broadcasters, it as an opportunity for a windfall political spend during an otherwise quiet off-season. And when a run-off is the only game going, national political spenders tend to swarm in with cash.