Rep. Jane Harman (D)
California 36th District
For many Southern Californians, there is no better place to be than the beach. It is not a perfect environment: In the morning there may be mists, the winter air is damp and clammy, and even in summer the weather can be chilly. The water is never very warm and is sometimes polluted. But for many this is echt-California, and in this democratic polity, there is a beach to suit the taste of just about everyone, many of them with their unique piers and athletes, especially volleyball. The funkiest of all is Venice: “Muscle Beach,” with its beach houses and expensive new mansions jammed together, sharing the shoreline with the homeless people in cars and campers who have staked out spots along the beach in recent years. Venice is known for its chaotic boardwalk, where skateboarding got its start and in-line skating sports are de rigueur. The 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown is about the group of Venice surfers who revolutionized the skateboarding culture in the 1970s. To the south is Marina Del Rey, with sleek modern apartment complexes and expensive yacht moorings, and south of LAX Airport, El Segundo, named for Chevron’s second oil refinery and now with big office buildings. Next is South Bay, with Manhattan Beach, a favorite of the Beach Boys, who grew up a couple of miles inland in Hawthorne. Tiny Hermosa Beach, with tightly packed frame houses originally the homes of elderly retirees, is now filled with the young and the trying-to-stay-young. Many of the beaches enforce no-smoking rules. Farther south are the flower-planted rises of Redondo Beach and the larger city of Torrance, whose vast inland expanse is the home of large Korean and Japanese communities and of the North American headquarters of both Toyota and Honda. Overlooking L.A.’s modern container port are Wilmington and San Pedro, once working class, but moving up as well.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 36th Congressional District of California includes most of this beach territory, from Venice south to San Pedro (both of which are within the Los Angeles city limits, though the area in between is not). The district is multiethnic: 32% of residents are Hispanic, 15% Asian, and 28% foreign-born. But the beach communities, as if in the 1950s, are still filled mostly with white Anglos. This area is leery of taxes, but culturally it is libertarian—against restrictions or even aspersions on its various lifestyles. This has been one of America’s leading defense and aerospace areas, where Howard Hughes built planes half a century ago and where much of the 1980s defense buildup took place. With its many military and space facilities for electronics research and development, Boeing is the largest private employer in the area, including its assembly operation in El Segundo. Nearby, Northrop has been building a robotic patrol plane for the Navy.
Rep. Jane Harman (D)
Elected: 2000, 8th term.
Born: June 28, 1945, New York, NY .
Education: Smith Col., B.A. 1966, Harvard U., J.D. 1969.
Family: Married (Sidney); 4 children.
Elected office: U.S. House of Reps., 1992-98.
Professional Career: Legis. dir., U.S. Sen. John Tunney, 1972–73; Chief cnsl. & staff dir., Senate Judiciary Subcmtee., 1973–77; Dep. cabinet secy., White House, 1977; Defense dept. special cnsl., 1979; Harman Intl. Industries, Corp. Secy., 1985–92, Dir., 1990–92; Practicing atty., 1970-72, 1982–92; Regents prof., U.C.L.A., 1999.
The congresswoman from the 36th District is Democrat Jane Harman, who was first elected in 1992 and regained the seat in 2000 after running unsuccessfully for governor in 1998. Born in New York City, she grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a Westside physician. She had early exposure to politics: She was a volunteer usher when John F. Kennedy was nominated at the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. Harman graduated from Smith College and then Harvard Law School, when that was still rare for women. In the 1970s, she worked for California Sen. John Tunney, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She later was a special counsel in the Defense Department and then worked as a lobbyist in Washington. She is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Her husband, Sidney Harman, is the founder of audio-equipment maker Harman International Industries, and she has spent large amounts of her own money on her campaigns. In 1992, Harman campaigned as “pro-choice and pro-change,” defeating a Republican woman who opposed abortion rights 48%-42% in a new district. Harman was twice narrowly re-elected, in 1994 and 1996. She spent more than $20 million running for governor in 1998, including $15 million of her own money, but finished a disappointing third among Democrats, far behind Gray Davis.
|Jane Harman (D)||171,948||(69%)||($687,693)|
|Brian Gibson (R)||78,543||(31%)||($8,988)|
|Jane Harman (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (61%), 2000 (48%), 1996 (52%), 1994 (48%), 1992 (48%)
Congressional and state Democrats lobbied her hard to reclaim her former House seat, which Republican Steven Kuykendall narrowly won in 1998. Kuykendall supported abortion rights and took liberal stands on environmental issues; many Democrats believed that only Harman could defeat him. She decided to run again in 2000, attacking Kuykendall for failing to support the Democrats’ proposal for a prescription drug benefit in Medicare and for voting to repeal the estate tax. She stressed her earlier House record, economically somewhat conservative and culturally liberal. Kuykendall was hurt by the lack of appeal of George W. Bush in coastal California. This was a race targeted by both parties, with each candidate spending nearly $2 million. After more than a week of absentee-ballot counting, Harman won 48%-47%.
Her voting record has been the most conservative of Democrats from Los Angeles, with some support for business causes and energy conservation. After September 11, she began to focus increasingly on national security. With a seat on the Intelligence Committee, she became the ranking Democrat of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee. Working closely with Chairman Saxby Chambliss, then a Georgia Republican representative, she criticized the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency for moving too slowly to share information to respond to terrorism threats. She was an early supporter of creating a Department of Homeland Security and she voted for the use of force in Iraq.
Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was the ranking Democrat on the full Intelligence panel, chose Harman to replace her after the 2002 election, despite a vigorous campaign by Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. “I live and breathe security 24/7,” Harman said. She agreed with the 9/11 commission’s recommendations to give more authority to a national intelligence director and to unify intelligence resources. She again established a bipartisan working relationship with the Republican in charge, Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan. The two worked with Senate Governmental Affairs Chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine, in getting Congress to complete the intelligence reorganization bill in 2004. The following year, Harman called for a ban on torture by U.S. interrogators and a prohibition on transfer of detainees to countries that engage in torture. She also said that President Bush lacked authority for his domestic surveillance program.
Her bipartisanship and pragmatism occasionally rankled other Democrats on the committee and in the House. In 2006, she had reason to believe that she would chair the Intelligence Committee if Democrats regained the majority in the election. But Pelosi had other ideas. Having earlier promised other lawmakers that Harman would be the top Democrat on the panel for only four years, Pelosi made clear that the position was up for grabs. But the independent-minded Harman did not get the message. And the more she defended her qualifications, stated her intention to remain, and had her allies lobby for her, the more Pelosi was angered by the pressure. Pelosi gave the gavel to Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and Harman got the consolation prize of chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment: a big title, but less authority. The House in 2008 passed her bills to require the Homeland Security Department to expedite the disclosure of unclassified information, including unclassified versions of intelligence documents. When President Obama took office in 2009, she promised a continued push to reverse Bush-era policies on enemy combatants.
Harman and Pelosi found themselves thrown together in another controversy in April 2009. The Intelligence Committee launched an investigation of news reports that Harman had been wiretapped by the NSA in 2005 and was overheard telling an Israeli agent she would push for the Justice Department to ease espionage charges against two former American Israeli Public Affairs Committee officials. In exchange, the Israeli agent allegedly pledged to lobby Pelosi to appoint Harman to chair the Intelligence panel. Harman denied improper involvement and pushed Justice officials to release the transcript. Pelosi said she was aware in 2005 that Harman was being wiretapped, but expressed her belief that Harman had acted appropriately.
In 2006, Harman survived a primary with Marcy Winograd, president of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, who harshly attacked her for supporting the Iraq war and for backing President Bush on intelligence issues. Harman defended her record as independent, and won 62%-38%. She had no re-election problems in 2008.