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Endorsement battle heats up in race to succeed former Rep. Jane Harman

March 28, 2011 |  4:09 pm

With just seven weeks before the May 17 special primary to succeed former Rep. Jane Harman, the battle for endorsements between the two most prominent Democratic candidates has moved into high gear.

L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who launched her campaign within hours after Harman (D-Venice) told constituents she was resigning, quickly started collecting backing from many area elected officials and local labor groups. On Monday, Hahn added the Los Angeles Police Protective League to her growing roster of backers.

Also Monday, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who spent 14 years in the Legislature in districts that overlap much of the strongly Democratic, largely coastal 36th Congressional District, announced she is the choice of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Dean, who has run for his party's nomination for president and chaired the Democratic National Committee, is founder of the grass-roots political organizing group Democracy for America. The group endorsed Bowen last week after surveying its members in the congressional district.

In a statement released by Bowen's campaign, Dean called the secretary of state "an intelligent, humble and passionate public servant who has the courage to stand up to special interests and has the record to back it up."

The Police Protective League was equally effusive in praise of its candidate, Hahn.

"Janice has worked closely with us on public safety and homeland security issues," league President Paul Weber said in a statement. "We know that she will be a strong supporter of law enforcement and public safety when she goes to Washington, and that's why we are proud to endorse her for Congress."

Last week, Hahn picked up an endorsement from the L.A. County Federation of Labor and Bowen from the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United. 

On Saturday, the 36th Congressional District caucus will meet in Torrance to determine whether to recommend that the California Democratic Party endorse any of the five Democrats who filed for the election. A candidate must get at least 60% of the caucus votes for endorsement, something that seems unlikely, observers say.

In all, 18 people filed to become candidates, including six Republicans and seven others. If no one wins a majority May 17, the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, will compete in a July 12 runoff. This will be the first congressional election under the state's new "top two" elections system.

-- Jean Merl