The 36th Congressional District – which includes Venice in West L.A., as well as the South Bay suburbs of Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, etc. – is having a special election on May 17th, because incumbent Jane Harman has resigned. And one of my favorite state politicians – Debra Bowen – is running in what has become a very crowded race. Debra is the California Secretary of State (and prior to that, was in the state legislature) and has long been a champion of open and transparent government – as well as the progressive issues we all care about. Her main competition, Janice Hahn, is an L.A. City Councilwoman – and pundits expect it to be a race between the two.
But there’s a third candidate – Marcy Winograd, who twice ran against Harman to protest her stand in favor of the Iraq War. I personally supported Marcy when she ran both times – but during those runs she also proved incapable of expanding her appeal beyond hard-core left-wing activists. With Harman gone, we now have an opportunity with Debra Bowen to get a winning progressive for this largely suburban district – and Winograd is merely a spoiler in the race. In fact, there’s hard evidence that Janice Hahn baited Winograd into the race this time as a cynical strategy to split progressives.I met at the home of Venice netroots activist Marta Evry this morning (along with Dante Atkins of Daily Kos, and Laura Van) – all friends I have gotten to know through my work in the liberal blogosphere. Venice is the most progressive part of the district (where Wingorad did best in her runs against Harman), and our task was to get voters to support Debra Bowen. And it was a lovely day to be outside – with the breeze from the Pacific Ocean caressing us as we walked the streets and knocked on doors. Venice reminded me a lot of Berkeley, as a lefty community with educated voters who are interested in having political conversations at the door. Having lived in Berkeley for many years, it really felt like home.
Most voters were very supportive, and quite a few were aware of the race. One voter told me they had voted for Debra Bowen in her prior races, and would surely vote for her again. It’s always hard when you’re having these conversations to gauge how effective you’re really being, but the impact that a volunteer has coming to your door is really quite huge. Sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate that until you see the election results.
So did I wear my cowboy gear while canvassing for Debra Bowen? No, this is Venice – after all. When you’re knocking on doors for a political candidate, it’s important to stay “on message” and look the part. While I didn’t show up in flip-flops and a surfer t-shirt, I just went as myself. But the netroots crew insisted they wanted to see me in my Western garb – so I promised that when we go out to dinner, I would have my boots and cowboy hat on! Four of us had a lovely dinner in West Hollywood at the Formosa Cafe – although sad to say, we didn’t have any movie celebrity sightings!
I also extended my rental car reservation today for an extra three days – so that I can drop it off in San Francisco on Wednesday. I’ve been driving a black Jeep Compass on this trip, which came in really handy when I drove on some unpaved parts of Route 66. Tomorrow, I head up north – as I plan to get home on Wednesday. Of course, parts of Highway One are still washed out because of mudslides – so I’ll have to play it by ear as to how much of the Scenic Road I can take. But never mind for now … I have a reservation to go visit Hearst Castle!