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Debate for special congressional election scheduled even before filing period closes [Updated]

March 21, 2011 |  5:03 pm

Never mind that the filing period for candidates in a special congressional election hasn't closed yet -- the first candidates debate is already on.

The Courage Campaign, an online grass-roots political organizing network, has invited "leading" candidates to replace former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) in the largely coastal 36th Congressional District to participate in "forum by phone" Thursday.

The moderator will be Courage Campaign Chairman and founder Rick Jacobs. For voters who want to follow along, the event also will be streamed live from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at www.couragecampaign.org/CA36Forum, and questions for candidates can be submitted through that link in advance of the forum. 

Courage Campaign spokesman Todd Stenhouse said planning for the forum began before Gov. Jerry Brown called the special election last week. The organization invited three Democrats and three Republicans who had already announced, and then it decided to limit the number of participants to keep the forum more manageable and meaningful.

Invited Democrats are L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and teacher and antiwar activist Marcy Winograd, who twice challenged Harman in primaries. All have accepted, Stenhouse said. Redondo Beach Mayor Mike Gin is the only Republican who agreed to participate; two others, Redondo Beach City Atty. Mike Webb and Hermosa Beach Councilman Kit Bobko, declined, he said.

The filing period ends Friday. As of Monday morning, 20 people had taken at least initial steps to run, including five Republicans, eight Democrats, two Libertarians, one Peace and Freedom Party member, and four candidates not affiliated with any of the political parties recognized by the state.

-- Jean Merl

[Updated, 6:20 p.m. March 21: An earlier version of this post included a call-in telephone number. Because of concerns about call volume, event organizers have since restricted use of the number to members of the media and instead ask voters to participate at the website listed above.]