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!"