Ted Lieu touts legislative experience in bid for Henry Waxman’s seat in Congress
By Brian Sumers
Among all the candidates for Henry Waxman’s congressional seat — and there are more than 15 — state Sen. Ted Lieu likes to say he’s the only inveterate legislator in the bunch.
Yes, Wendy Greuel, one of his chief Democratic rivals, served for eight years on the Los Angeles City Council. But that’s a different type of legislative body, Lieu says, one more concerned about parochial issues than broader ones.
“I’m a legislator,” Lieu said. “When you think about what the congressional position is, it’s not an executive position. It’s not a local position. It’s a legislative position in a bicameral, bipartisan system with an executive branch.”
This is a fancy way of saying that Lieu, a Torrance resident who represents the coastal South Bay, serves in Sacramento in a style of government nearly identical to the one he would need to navigate in Washington. It has two parts, the House and the Senate, and two major parties, Republicans and Democrats. The only major difference? The executive branch in Washington is led by President Barack Obama, not Gov. Jerry Brown.
Lieu, a former Torrance city councilman, said he believes he has the edge in the 33rd District because of his experience both in the state Senate and previously in the state Assembly.
“As a legislator you can’t say, ‘I want X to happen and X happens,’ ” Lieu said. “You say, you would like X to happen, and you have to deal with stakeholders, legislators and an executive. Then you must get it signed by the executive. Some people are good at that.”
Lieu is considered one of five or so serious contenders in the sprawling district, which stretches from the Palos Verdes Peninsula up through Malibu, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and over to Beverly Hills. That’s in part because the district is nearly identical to the one he now represents in Sacramento. He said more than 80 percent of his Senate district’s voters are in Waxman’s House district.
“He is a very pleasant guy,” said Hal Dash, a Democratic political consultant in Los Angeles who is not involved in the race. “His door is always open. He is a guy who has had to run a district office. He has a good record of being open. Sometimes he agrees with you and sometimes he disagrees with you. But he always has an open-door policy.”
With one exception, Republican Elan Carr, just about every top-tier candidate in the 33rd District race claims he or she will carry on the legacy of Waxman, a liberal giant who has served in Washington for four decades.
Waxman has not endorsed a successor and has not signaled that he will, so the candidates are on their own to prove to voters that they can be as effective as he has been. Lieu said that, like Waxman, he can be productive even while serving in the minority in Congress. (It is unlikely that Democrats will take the majority this November in the House of Representatives.)
“I read Henry Waxman’s book, ‘The Waxman Report,’ ” Lieu said. “He talks about how he was able to get a lot done. The pace at which laws get passed at the federal level can be quite slow. But you can build up evidence and shine light. You can keep shining the light on important issues and keep gathering evidence and data, using your office as a bully pulpit to keep the nation moving forward.”
And if and when Democrats regain the majority in the House, Lieu said, he will be ready. He pointed to two key pieces of legislation he authored in Sacramento — one that banned gay conversion therapy for minors statewide and the other that put limits on how subprime mortgages can be marketed — as signs that he can make a difference in Washington.
Lieu said he was especially proud of the first-of-its-kind legislation regarding conversion therapy, which he said has been a model for other states. New Jersey recently passed a similar law, and Lieu said about 10 other states have introduced similar legislation.
“We have protected children,” Lieu said. “And it sends a clear message that being LGBT is not a medical disease or defect. It is, in fact, a beautiful realization of what it means to be human.”