Republican Elan Carr, Democrat Ted Lieu set for November general election battle
By Brian Sumers
With Democrats splitting the vote Tuesday, a Republican — Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr — emerged atop a large primary field in the race to succeed Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman in Congress.
Carr’s surprising showing at the polls Tuesday catapults him into a November runoff with Democrat Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance, who gave up his state Senate seat for a run at the 33rd Congressional District seat.
With mail-in ballots and about 94 percent of precincts reporting, Carr had 21.7 percent of the vote to 19.3 percent for Lieu.
Former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, also a Democrat, finished in third place just behind Lieu with 16.7 percent of the vote. Independent Marianne Williamson collected 12.5 percent and Democrat Matt Miller had 11.9 percent.
“This feels great,” Carr said in a 2 a.m. interview. “We are pleased and gratified that our message has resonated with the voters of this district. It is a message of creating jobs and economic growth and a message of fixing our schools and taking care of our children and protecting families. I think that’s a winning message.”
Reached earlier in the evening at his victory party at the Proud Bird restaurant in Westchester, Lieu a former member of the state Assembly and the Torrance City Council, said he knew it was going to be close finish.
“I think it will be a long night, but I feel positive,” he said. “We will see what the voters do.”
There were 18 candidates on the ballot, though at least two of them — James Graf and Brent Roske — had suspended their campaigns before election day. Nine of the remaining candidates were Democrats.
The 33rd District starts in the Palos Verdes Peninsula and hugs the coast north into Malibu. On the northern side of the district, it juts inland, taking in Beverly Hills and West and Mid-City Los Angeles. Democrats hold a 44 percent to 27 percent voter registration edge over Republicans, which will make Carr’s task difficult come Nov. 3, when all of the Democratic voters coalesce around one candidate.
But Carr said he believes he can pull an upset.
“I have been campaigning for four months now, and I have seen the extent to which I am getting bipartisan support,” he said. “Voters are looking for someone with a track record of serving Americans and who is talking about job creation.”
The 33rd has been among the most fiercely competitive districts in California. The campaign unfolded in an unusually short time period. Waxman, the liberal lion of the House, who served for four decades in Congress, only announced his retirement at the end of January, forcing candidates to introduce themselves to voters on a rushed basis.
Lieu and Greuel jumped in almost immediately, and each started the race with strong name recognition. As a state senator, Lieu represents about 80 percent of the voters in the congressional district, so he was a known candidate to many who went to the polls. Greuel, meanwhile, was well-known after her 2013 campaign for mayor of Los Angeles, which she lost to Eric Garcetti. Greuel, a longtime resident of Studio City, which is not in the district, moved to Brentwood for the race.
They were immediately considered two of the top contenders in the race.
Lieu received a further boost last week when he was endorsed by Garcetti. The two politicians appeared together Saturday at Canter’s Delicatessen on the far eastern edge of the district, an event that may have helped Lieu attract attention in an area where he was not as well-known.
“It is always difficult to run with multiple candidates, but I thought we did well,” Lieu said. “We ran a very positive campaign.”
For her part, Greuel was spending Tuesday night watching the election results slowly trickle in. Early in the evening, she said she was cautiously optimistic she would finish in the top two, recalling her 2002 run for Los Angeles City Council that she barely won.
“I won my first race by 225 votes out of 30,000 so I know what it means to wait for all the votes to come in,” she said. “I think we’ll be in for a long night.”
In the other South Bay congressional race, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who represents Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita and Torrance, was trouncing Republican John Wood Jr. Both will appear on the November general election ballot.
In the Harbor Area, Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn ran unopposed.