Today, she made it official.
Rep. Jane Harman gave more than her two weeks’ notice Tuesday when she confirmed her decision to leave the House of Representatives for a think tank, ending her 16-year career as a leading centrist force on Capitol Hill.
Harman was officially offered and accepted the job of president, CEO and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars said at a press conference Tuesday morning. She plans to start work there on Feb. 28.
“Serving in Congress for over eight terms has been an enormous honor for me,” the Southern California Democrat said. “I often say I represent the smartest constituents on the planet, certainly the best congressional district, and I have assembled over the years what I call Team Harman, a group of staffers that is unequaled in — in the House. And it is very hard for me to leave my constituents, my staffers and my colleagues on a bipartisan basis.”
In an interview on MSNBC, Harman said the job materialized only after she was reelected to an eighth term in November. “After the election, after I was reelected by a large margin as moderate, which was a rare occurrence in the last election, the search committee came to me and I spoke to them in mid-to-late December about this opportunity,” she said.
Harman’s decision to leave was not driven by changes on the Hill, she said. Being in “the majority is better,” Harman admitted, “but I’ve felt that I was very productive in the minority.”
When asked if she would endorse a successor for her seat, Harman only said she wouldn't do so before she left Congress.
LA Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who is closely aligned with Harman and who attended the recent State Of The Union speech at Harman's invitation, has officially entered the race. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is widely reported to be seriously considering a run, as is Marcy Winograd, who twice challenged Harman in the Democratic primary.
Mattie Fein, the Republican candidate who lost to Harman in November, 60% to 35%, said she might run again as well.
Governor Jerry Brown has until March 14th to set a date for a special election to fill Harman's seat. The election must be held between 112 and 126 days after the seat becomes vacant.
The special election will be held under new "open primary" rules. Voters can select any candidate, regardless of party affiliation. If no candidate gets 50% +1, the top two vote-getters will have to run against each other in a runoff.