Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winograd, Party Of One?

Yesterday, as thousands of Angelenos began assembling in solidarity downtown at LA City hall with the workers of Wisconsin, Marcy Winograd, the latest candidate to enter the race to fill Jane Harman's vacated congressional seat, kicked off her campaign with friends, family and about a dozen supporters on a windy sidewalk outside a Torrance, CA drugstore.

The gathering was relatively modest compared to her campaign kickoff in 2009 against then incumbent, Jane Harman.

Yesterday at the Venice Pier, Marcy Winograd announced her campaign for Congress in front of about 75-80 supporters and friends, and many leaders of the progressive activist community in Los Angeles......

Marcy gave a short speech where she emphasized her no-holds-barred progressive values and offered a true contrast to her incumbent opponent. She called for a "new New Deal" to put America back to work, announced support for John Conyers' HR 676, questioned the continued bailout of the banks and the use of Predator drone strikes in Pakistan, argued for rapid transit and renewable energy in the Los Angeles area, and said of her primary challenge, "this will reverberate throughout the country."

Winograd's choice to run for CA36 has a number of progressive activists scratching their heads.  With Harman out of the picture, Winograd's candidacy no longer has the urgency of a protest campaign. And with two well-known Democrats already contesting the open seat, including Debra Bowen, California's popular and progressive Secretary of State, Winograd has virtually no chance of surviving the first round of voting, let alone winning the seat outright.

Even though Winograd took 41% of the vote in her last primary challenge against Harman, the dynamic is far different in this race.

Under new rules approved by voters last year, the CA36 race will be the first congressional election in California run as an "open primary". Under this system all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run against each other in a single contest. If no one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to a second election. In this way, the election more closely mirrors a general election, since Republicans, Democrats and Independents can vote for any candidate.

So far there are three Democrats in the race and only one Republican - Mike Webb, the City Attorney of Redondo Beach. Since Republican candidates have in the past captured between 30%-40% of the CA36 vote in the general election, it's far more likely Webb (if he remains the only Republican in the race) would advance to the second round against either Hahn or Bowen, than it is for Winograd.

If Winograd herself is worried about splitting votes with the more liberal Debra Bowen and handing the election to Hahn - Jane Harman's preferred candidate - or a Republican, she's not showing it.

Asked if she was worried about playing a spoiler role for Bowen, Winograd said she likes Bowen and would like to see her continue as Secretary of State.

"I have great respect for Debra Bowen," she said. "I'm glad to see she is taking more of a leadership role on getting out of Afghanistan. That's good. I think my entering the race plays a role in shaping the debate."

However, progressive activists who supported Winograd in the past aren't so sanguine, and are withholding both monetary support and endorsements, choosing instead to support  Bowen. 

Another challenge for Winograd, who is accustomed to running against Harman, will be defining herself to voters. Both Hahn and Bowen are far to the left of Harman - neither are Blue Dog Democrats like the former congresswoman - so there's very little substantive issues where the three differ.

The exception is Israel, an issue Winograd is quite passionate about, but her views aren't widely shared or popular with voters. (Rep. Henry Waxman once said of her, "in Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist.")

Without Harman as a foil, it will remain to be seen if Winograd can make a case for herself with voters in 2011. Winograd and her supporters seem to understand this, because they're doing everything they can to keep Harman a factor in the campaign.

A supporter close to Winograd's campaign, trying to distinguish his candidate from Bowen, made this argument to activists on a local listserve,

"Bowen's whole political career is a mirror image of Jane Harman's record and her right-of-center races for the assembly and senate are there for all to see!"


  1. Why does Marta dislike - or simply not understand -- what it means to be progressive? Both Hahn and Bowen signed a pledge of allegiance to AIPAC. Why dooes anyone think it's a good idea for AIPAC to run our foreign policy? Marta quotes Waxman, who is like Harman, both AIPAC loyalists, to make her point. Pledging allegiance to AIPAC is not about citizens standing together to take control of their government as Marta's slogan seems to indicate she believes.

  2. Kim, first of all, thank you for commenting here with your real name, and not anonymously as have many Winograd supporters.

    Clearly Hahn and Bowen does not share Winograd's views on Israel. But is that enough to build an entire campaign around? What about job creation, supporting unions, the environment, green energy, public transportation, and education? How do her views on these issues differ than that of Bowen?

  3. Great post Marta. I know you support Debra Bowen (I do too), but I think you're being very fair to Winograd here. And thank you for documenting her kickoff - I was having a devil of a time finding any pictures of it from the traditional media.

    A couple points I wanted to add showing Winograd's campaign skills - not her politics - are the real reason no one should engage with her campaign. (FYI, I am a past supporter of Winograd, who donated, fundraised and volunteered on her campaign in 2006):

    1. The first thing people are going to look at is what kind of support she has behind her. And it appears she didn't lift a finger to get people to come out to this event. Fercrissakes, she had 41% of the Dem primarly electorate vote for her 4 months ago, and she turns out a _dozen_ of them? That probably underrepresents her level of support. I'm no political consultant, but even I can tell that's major fail.

    2. "What is she doing having her campaign announcement in front of a drug store in Torrance I've never heard of?" Lots of people saw the Daily Breeze and other news articles that mentioned she'd be having this kickoff and asked themselves this question, but only about 20 ever heard her speech and got the answer. For somebody who should be trying very hard to make her campaign not sound penny-ante, it's probably best not to have campaign announcement at an apparently random five-and-dime drugstore. It's the appearances I'm talking about here - not the substance. If the substance got communicated it would be another thing, but as so often happens with Marcy, is that she totally screws up the message and it doesn't get through.

    On another note, I'd say it's not so easy to distinguish Hahn and Bowen on the ideological spectrum. The main distinction I see is on Bowen's being relatively independent of the Democratic machine/establishment, while Hahn is totally inseparable of it.

  4. Peter, Marta is by no means being "fair" to Marcy (my spouse) in this post. She had far more than a "dozen" supporters at the kickoff -- it was in excess of 40. I was there, and I don't think Marta was. She held the event in old town Torrance, at a drug store owned by an Egyptian-American supporter, to show, in part, that her campaign will touch all bases, and that the bell of freedom ringing in the Middle East also must ring here in CA-36.

    I would urge anyone who wants to understand what Hahn did with "the pledge" to read its text, rather than accept someone's characterization of it. It is full of praise for Harman's "national security" policies, which were abhorrent. And it per se condemns criticism of Israel -- how's that for democracy? No, this campaign should not be about I/P, but for some of the reasons Peter mentions -- Hahn as the establishment Dem who can't be trusted to part with the CW triangulation, and Bowen, who signed on to a pledge praising Harman's execrable national security positions and is a blank slate on most federally-based issues -- Winograd is the best choice in an admittedly better, more progressive field than existed when Harman was dominant and struck fear in the Dem establishment who might otherwise have opposed her on purely policy grounds. I guess Marta, who vigorously supported Harman and wrote vicious hit pieces in 2006 and 2010 against Winograd, has seen the light a bit on the flaws that should have resulted in Harman's earlier exit.

  5. A few things:

    For anyone who would like to read the pledge, the link is here:

    For anyone who wants to see how many showed up at Winograd's rally, click on the photos above. They blow up really big. You'll see Winograd, her camera crew, family, friends and a handful of supporters.

    Lastly, Buddy, I have to say, you're getting better at public writing. At least you didn't resort to your usual litany of insults. For anyone interested in reading THAT, feel free to go to this link:!/buddyg