Elan Carr’s victory also a win for Ted Lieu in race for Henry Waxman’s House seat, analysts say
By Rob Kuznia
Although a Republican rocketed to the top of the field in this week’s primary to succeed Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman in Congress, political insiders say that’s nothing but good news for the Democrat who came in second place, state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance.
With Democrats splitting the vote Tuesday, the Republican — Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr — emerged atop a crowded primary field to represent what for decades has been the domain of one of the nation’s most liberal members of Congress.
Carr’s showing at the polls Tuesday pits him in a November runoff with Lieu, who gave up his state Senate seat seeking to replace Waxman in the 33rd Congressional District, which starts in the Palos Verdes Peninsula and hugs the coast north into Malibu. On its northern side, the Democratic stronghold of a district juts inland, taking in Beverly Hills and West and Mid-City Los Angeles.
Carr, a gang prosecutor and Iraq War veteran whose parents immigrated to the United States from Israel, took 21.5 percent of the vote to 19.1 percent for Lieu.
Former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, also a Democrat, finished in third place just behind Lieu with 16.8 percent. Independent Marianne Williamson — who won the fundraising contest — collected 12.5 percent and Democrat Matt Miller had 11.9 percent.
Political analysts say Lieu probably isn’t too distraught about his second-place finish. In fact, he no doubt prefers it to topping the field just ahead of Greuel or perhaps even big-spender Williamson, given the district’s party breakdown among registered voters: 44 percent Democratic, 27 percent Republican.
“He’s guaranteed to win if he goes against a Republican,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP strategist who publishes a nonpartisan publication on politics. “Unless he really drops the ball, Ted Lieu will be the next congressman for that district, and he’ll probably be there as long as he wants.”
Analyst Scott Lay went so far as to say Tuesday’s outcome is a win for Democrats at the national level.
“(The 33rd District) is one of the best fundraising spots for Democrats across the country,” said Lay, a Davis-based political analyst and publisher of AroundtheCapitol.com. “By avoiding a Democrat-on-Democrat runoff in November, this preserves millions of dollars for other races.”
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 in a 2 a.m. call Wednesday. “Voters are looking for someone with a track record of serving Americans and who is talking about job creation.”
Carr couldn’t be reached for further comment later in the day Wednesday.
Lieu, meanwhile, said Carr’s victory won’t change his campaign strategy in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election.
“We’ve run a positive campaign that has emphasized my record and what I’ve delivered to the district as well as California in terms of job creation, increasing funding to local schools and protecting our environment,” he said.
As for his stance on the issues, while Lieu might not lean far enough to the left to be worthy of Waxman’s “liberal lion” moniker, he often skews toward the liberal side of the spectrum.
It was Lieu, for instance, who authored a successful 2012 bill to ban the practice of administering sexual-orientation change therapy — including “conversion therapy” — to minors. He also was a strong proponent of the successful bill that last year that allowed undocumented immigrants to take the bar exam.
On gun control, Lieu believes background checks should be mandatory at a national level.
“I think it’s crazy we don’t have a background check in America for people who want to buy a gun,” he said.
Internationally, Lieu said he believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As for Carr, he said during the campaign that improving the nation’s educational system would be his main priority. He believes that better schools will give many students a higher sense of purpose and keep some from joining gangs.
The race took an interesting turn last week when Lieu was endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who defeated Greuel last year in a bruising battle for the mayoral post.
Lieu and Garcetti 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.
“I was a little surprised when Garcetti jumped in,” Lay say. “It shows he wasn’t trying to mend fences with Greuel after their tough election.”
Analysts say they weren’t surprised by Tuesday’s outcome because Carr was the only truly organized Republican in a field with 10 Democrats. There were 18 names on the ballot in all, plus a write-in candidate.
Williamson, the Democrat turned independent, raised about $1.6 million in the money race, far ahead of Lieu and Greuel, the next highest in campaign fundraising, each taking in about $1 million.
If Lieu wins, he will get a bit of a salary boost. His compensation package in the state Senate includes a $100,000 salary plus about $34,000 for expenses, he said. The average member of Congress draws an annual salary of $174,000.