I voted for the first time four months after I turned 18. I’d been waiting to vote since I was seven years old and I was giddy with the prospect. I had just moved to Los Angeles for college, and while I paid attention to politics, I wasn’t yet that informed on the state and local dynamics. However, I registered as a Democrat and pretty much voted that way in the midterm election.
That was the first time I voted for Henry Waxman.
Though my first vote for him was merely me voting based on party loyalty, over the years I learned that I was voting for his record. Elected during a time when politicians went to Washington to actually do things, Waxman was at the forefront of a great deal of legislation that has changed our nation. It’s because of him we have safe and nutritious infant formula and low cost generic drugs. The Ryan White Act – which guaranteed medical care to people with HIV/AIDS – exists because of his decade long fight to make it a reality. He was also a key player to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. This is in addition to my first hand knowledge of his direct help of friends of mine – his constituents.
For my entire adult life he has been my person in Washington, D.C.
So when news of his retirement after 40 years in Congress was announced in January, I was more than a little upset. At first I was all like…
Then, realizing the man has been in Congress for pretty much my entire life, I understood it was time to go. I’m a big fan of experience in politics, and Rep. Waxman is one of the good ones, but I do feel that the habit of decades-long stints in Washington, D.C. has gotten out of hand.
So once I was done crying over my loss, I prepared myself for the race to replace Waxman.
There are an insane amount of people running to replace Waxman. Due to California’s “top 2” primary format, the two candidates with the most votes will be on the ballot in November. We won’t know who those two until polls close on Tuesday, June 3, but I can tell you something about the two choices before then: They will definitely be liberal, at least one of them white, and each will have celebrity endorsements.
To understand how I know this, you must first understand the area that is affectionately called President Obama’s ATM and where I have lived since I moved to Los Angeles two months after my 18th birthday.
California’s 33rd Congressional District has had various configurations and changed district numbers four times over the decades. In general, this is where the rich, famous, and relatively famous work and play. It is currently the second richest congressional district in the nation. The district includes areas like Bel Air (astronomical money), Beverly Hills (insanely rich – but not as much as you would think), the University of California, Los Angeles, (college students – not rich, but right across the street from Bel Air and a big recipient of lots of research funds), as well as all of the coolest beach cities in Los Angeles County.
To put it into perspective, the median annual income of a little over $61,000 would not be able to buy a home in the district – which means more than 60 percent of us are renters (and most of us can only do so because of strong rent control laws).
The average income is lowered due to the social policies that encourage mixed income neighborhoods. This is another unique aspect of the area – it is ridiculously liberal. My city of Santa Monica was often referred to as the “socialist republic of Santa Monica” due to having the strictest rent control and general slow growth policies in the nation. Even as incomes grew, and more businesses moved west, the residents have remained socially conscious, whether they drive a Prius or a Tesla. The generally phenomenal year round weather also makes the beach cities a popular destination for the homeless.
I’m sure that’s on a travel brochure somewhere.
Racially, it is nearly 70 percent white, with the next closest group being Asian representing 13.5 percent of the population. Only 11 percent are Hispanic and the black population was cut in half to just under 3 percent when redistricting removed Culver City, Baldwin Hills, and Ladera Heights in 2013.
All of this guarantees that our new representative will be, well, representative of the area.
It’s a wide open primary and it’s filled with a cast of characters. There are SEVENTEEN OF THEM (there were 18, but he dropped out in late May). They are an interesting mix of characters, but only a few have any real shot of getting a substantial amount of votes.
Of the 17 candidates, 10 of them list their party affiliation as Democratic, 3 as Republican, 1 Libertarian, 2 who claim to have no party affiliation, and of course the obligatory Green Party candidate. It’s easy to eliminate the Republicans and Libertarian because, well, they are Republicans and a Libertarian. While the Green Party candidate will definitely have likeminded supporters, it won’t be enough to make it to the top 2. That leaves the Democrats and non-affiliated to battle it out.
The Democratic candidates are a mixture of established politicians and the normal mix of creative, “entrepreneur”, and entertainment types.
Of the Democrats, Wendy Greuel and Ted Lieu have the experience and political establishment support. Greuel is on the ballot, fresh off her unsuccessful run for Los Angeles Mayor. She is the Emily’s list pick in the race and has the backing from a slew of elected officials, including popular state Attorney General Kamala Harris and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Her celebrity endorsements are exceptionally weak considering her entertainment industry connections and her five years with Dreamworks SKG. Still Ed Begley Jr. and Rob Reiner will get her attention with the environmental types.
Ted Lieu is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He started his career as a Torrance City Councilman. He served in the state assembly prior to becoming the current state Senator for the 28th state Senate District. He is the only one in the race endorsed by the California Democratic Party. His next to last placement on the ballot and zero celebrity endorsements make him a dark horse, but as an established California politician, he’s in the running.
Under normal circumstances, these would be the two to choose from in November. However, the wide open race has created a perfect storm for the unexpected challenge from anyone.
The two candidates with “none” listed as party preference are Tom Fox and Marianne Williamson. The top 2 primary is only in its second election cycle, but there are more candidates claiming to be “independent”, mainly by those that are not Democrats to improve their chances in the very deep blue district. Tom Fox is a lawyer who left the Democratic Party and considers himself a fiscal conservative. As he explains on his website, he does not see the Republican Party as fiscal conservatives and disagrees with their current Tea Party trajectory. He is running in large part due to his frustration with the ineffectiveness of the current congress.
And then there is Marianne Williamson.
Like Fox, Williamson is also frustrated with Congress. Also a lifelong Democrat, she is running as an independent in order to usher in a much needed “course correction” for the country. An internationally known spiritual teacher and author, she wishes to bring compassion and spirituality back into politics. According to Williamson, our democracy, and specifically Congress, needs to undergo a “holistic paradigm” to steer the ship that is now off course. She feels her presence could lead that movement.
Also, her celebrity endorsement game is strong.
In addition to political support from progressive political rockstars like current Congressman Keith Ellison and Congressman Alan Grayson, she has by far the most expansive list of celebrities supporting her. Eva Longoria and Frances Fisher offered their support early on. Alanis Morissette wrote and recorded a song for her. Other “luminaries” (as she calls them on her website) include Nicole Richie, Jane Lynch, John Fugelsang, and Deepak Chopra.
I can also attest to the fact that her yard sign game is unmatched on the west side.
In the end, it will be a battle to be crowned the most progressive of the liberals. There will be plenty of money and celebrity endorsements to spread around. No matter who makes it out of the primary, there is one thing guaranteed: There will be no Henry Waxman among them.
It’s the end of an era. Time to catch the next wave.