Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

California Loses 102 Years of Seniority

In House on January 31, 2014 at 12:57 pm

With yesterday’s retirement announcement from veteran Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA-33), added to the recent decisions of representatives George Miller (D-CA-11) and Buck McKeon (R-CA-25) not to seek re-election this year, California will lose a combined 102 years of congressional seniority in the next Congress. Both Waxman and Miller will have served for 40 years when their current terms expire, and Rep. McKeon’s tenure will have been 22 years. Though seniority is not as important in the more modern congressional era, particularly on the Republican side, a state simultaneously losing so much service time in its federal delegation is still significant.

Rep. Waxman was the unofficial senior partner of the famed Waxman-Berman political machine in Los Angeles County, which was a dominant force throughout California Democratic Party circles at its apex. His departure represents the end of an era in southern California politics. In 2012 his chief ally, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA-28), lost his re-election bid to fellow Democrat Brad Sherman (D-CA-30) in a post-redistricting incumbent pairing showdown.

Largely due to an unfavorable redistricting draw (Waxman’s former 30th District was strewn over six districts and his new CD contained only 50 percent of his previous constituency), the veteran congressman’s 2012 victory percentage dropped to 54-46 percent over Independent businessman Bill Bloomfield. This year, already two Independents had declared their candidacies, movie producer Brent Roske and spiritual author Marianne Williamson. Now an open seat, many more aspiring office holders will enter the congressional campaign.

The 33rd CD is a Los Angeles County coastal seat that begins in Malibu to the north, cuts due east into Beverly Hills, and then south through Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, and Rancho Palos Verdes. President Obama scored a 61-37 percent victory over Mitt Romney within the district confines in the last election. It is most likely a Democrat will hold the seat in November, and quite possible that two Democrats could advance to the general election.

Potential Candidates

Among the names first mentioned as a potential candidate for the Waxman seat was 26th District US Rep. Julia Brownley (D). Prior to successfully running in the Ventura County district in the last regular election, Brownley represented her home town of Santa Monica in the state assembly. She immediately dispelled such talk of moving and pledged to seek re-election to her current position.

We can now expect a myriad of names to surface as potential candidates, including a statewide elected official, several current and former state legislators, local officials, and major liberal activists. Some of the Democrats already being mentioned are Secretary of State Debra Bowen who performed poorly in a 2011 special congressional campaign in a large portion of this territory prior to redistricting, state senators Ted Lieu and Fran Pavley, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, LA City Controller and defeated mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, LA City Councilman Paul Koretz, and feminist activist Sandra Fluke.

Waxman’s announcement means that 34 House seats will be open in the 2014 election; 21 Republican-held and 13 Democratic. Counting those vacated two years ago and others filled in special elections during 2013, a grand total of 101 districts have come open since the beginning of 2011, or 23.2 percent – nearly a quarter – of all House seats.

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