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Hahn, Bowen go negative in closing days of race to succeed Jane Harman

May 16, 2011 |  2:49 pm

To longtime politics watchers, the negative turn in Tuesday's special election seemed all but inevitable. Nor was it surprising that it came in the closing days of the race to replace former Rep. Jane Harman:

The two Democrats widely seen as front-runners in a 16-candidate field for the South Bay-based 36th Congressional District seat are slamming each other.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn sent out two mailers attacking Secretary of State Debra Bowen for taking money from "big oil" and criticized her 1996 vote, as a legislator, to deregulate the state's energy system. That brought protests from the state's leading environmental groups -- the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters, both of whom are backing Bowen.

Bowen hit Hahn for amassing at least half of her $424,000-plus war chest from lobbyists, developers and others who do business with City Hall and pointed out that a medical malpractice insurance group has spent more than $100,000 in an independent effort to support Hahn's candidacy.

Most observers predict that no candidate Tuesday will win the majority needed to avoid a July 12 runoff. If Hahn and Bowen are the top vote-getters, as is widely expected, California will have its first head-to-head competition between two members of the same party since voters approved a new "top two" elections system last year.

-- Jean Merl