Congress Isn’t Enough for Sandra Fluke

The California activist, previously rumored to be running for Rep. Henry Waxman’s seat, has chosen a different route to legislating.

Sandra Fluke, here a third-year law student at Georgetown University, testifies during a hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in February 2012.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Feb. 5, 2014, 4:30 a.m.

When Rep. Henry Wax­man an­nounced his re­tire­ment last month, he in­sisted he was not leav­ing out of frus­tra­tion with Con­gress. The Demo­crat who was rumored to be run­ning for his empty seat in Cali­for­nia, however, may be stay­ing out of the race be­cause of it.

“While I strongly con­sidered of­fer­ing my can­did­acy for Con­gress, I feel there is a bet­ter way for me to ad­vance the causes that are im­port­ant to our com­munity,” Fluke told the Los Angeles Times late Tues­day night.

The law­yer and wo­men’s-rights act­iv­ist plans to run in­stead for the state Sen­ate, where she be­lieves she would be able to ac­com­plish more than she would have in Con­gress. Fluke has a point: Aside from skirt­ing con­gres­sion­al grid­lock, stay­ing in state gov­ern­ment means Fluke will ac­tu­ally wind up with a lar­ger con­stitu­ency than she would have had in Con­gress, as Cali­for­nia has more con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts than it does state Sen­ate dis­tricts.

Fluke had moved from “strongly con­sid­er­ing” a con­gres­sion­al run last week to seek­ing party sup­port by fil­ing with the Cali­for­nia Demo­crat­ic Party on Tues­day. The de­cision sug­ges­ted to many that Fluke was already gear­ing up for a con­gres­sion­al cam­paign.

Fluke’s turn­around could be due to com­pet­i­tion for Wax­man’s seat. Demo­crat Ted Lieu already has a state sen­at­or’s gig un­der his belt, and former City Con­trol­ler Wendy Greuel was ex­pec­ted to at­tract a sim­il­ar set of voters as Fluke would have. Fluke worked with EMILY’s List, a polit­ic­al ac­tion com­mit­tee that seeks to elect Demo­crat­ic fe­male can­did­ates who sup­port abor­tion rights, dur­ing the 2012 elec­tion, but the group backed Greuel in an un­suc­cess­ful Los Angeles may­or­al race last year.

Fluke’s de­cision to run for state Sen­ate mir­rors a grow­ing move­ment among state gov­ern­ments to push ahead on policy is­sues, such as rais­ing the min­im­um wage and ex­pand­ing pre­kinder­garten edu­ca­tion, that are stalled at the fed­er­al level. These days, a young, up-and-com­ing politi­cian can more eas­ily build a repu­ta­tion in loc­al gov­ern­ment for get­ting things done than she could in Con­gress.

Fluke be­came a na­tion­al polit­ic­al celebrity in 2012, when con­ser­vat­ive ra­dio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” after her con­gres­sion­al testi­mony in fa­vor of re­quir­ing in­sur­ance com­pan­ies to cov­er the cost of con­tra­cep­tion.

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