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Craig Huey vs. Janice Hahn: Your CA-36 Special Election Guide

Venice: A laid-back beach town full of artists, surfers, slackers and hipsters. Very left-leaning.

El Segundo: Home of California's aerospace industry, with many connections to the Defense Department. The residential areas are modest and working class. Also a former oil boomtown. Somewhat more conservative than other parts of the district.

Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach: Attractive, slightly upscale beach towns. Destination of choice for those who can't afford a house in Malibu but who are turned off by the conservative politics of similar beach towns in nearby Orange County. Tend to be moderate and mostly apolitical.

Torrance: A very mixed (and surprisingly large) incorporated city within the Los Angeles urban area, ranging from a picturesque coastline to a slummy industrial zone. House prices are cheaper here, and so the area tends toward the lower end of middle class. Politically mixed.

San Pedro: Old-fashioned port town, and a major shipping terminal for the West Coast. Strong longshoremen and union influence, but also unapologetically patriotic, as it was once a Navy town. Solidly working class. An even split politically.

Insta-descriptions of other fringe areas partly in the district:

Wilmington: Mosty Hispanic.

Palos Verdes Peninsula (portions): Wealthy, upper-class.

West Carson: Higher proportion of African-Americans than other parts of the district.

Overall, a hodgepodge coalition of wealthy liberals, young hipsters, union voters, low-wage workers and Hispanics combine to make CA-36 a Democratic district, even though the Democratic vote is fractured among various social sub-groups.

Campaign Controversies


Craig Huey's message has been economy, economy, economy. He champions the deficit-reduction/low-tax/budget-cutting plans of the Tea Party. He barely even mentions any other issues. Hahn's response to Huey's tight and effective campaign has been to bash him repeatedly on a subject which up until that time had not even been on his radar: Abortion. Hahn's allies on the left have now enjoined a coordinated and relentless campaign to change the subject away from the economy, which is Huey's strong suit, to social issues, and abortion in particular. Why? Because the district is (like most of L.A.) solidly pro-choice, whereas Huey has in the past expressed a pro-life opinion. The Democrats are hoping this will be enough of a wedge issue to scare voters away from Huey and his tantalizing promise of an economic recovery.

I attended one of Craig Huey's town hall meetings, and during the question-and-answer session afterwards, one of the audience members (possibly a Hahn agent) directly asked him about his position on abortion. Here was Huey's reply, which drew an ovation from the crowd:

Craig Huey: "One of the things that has been a part of all this screaming has been the issue of abortion. The first thing is, I believe that the Supreme Court Decision of Roe v. Wade is an incorrect decision as bad as the Drew Scott decision by the Supreme Court years ago about slavery -- Dred Scott [correcting himself], thank you.

But the fact is, it's the law of the land. This is not an issue in this district, it's not an issue of Congress, it's not an issue that I have.

What's my stand on abortion? Well, let me tell you what my stand is. I believe that life does begin at conception. And this is a very personal thing for me. Because, you see, I'd been adopted. And I thank God for the two parents that I had. [Audience applause.] I thank God that I have life. And so what I believe is you promote a culture of adoption, as an alternative.

And so, bringing up the abortion issue is part of the scare tactics. It's just disgusting to me. I've been focused on the economy, because that's what people are concerned about. They realize that we have no bigger crisis than the economy."

Craig Huey speaking at a recent townhall meeting

Taxpayer dollars for gang members, and the Turn Right PAC "Give Me Your Cash, Bitch" parody video

Craig Huey was cruising ahead strongly in his campaign and staying effectively on-message when he was blindsided by a bizarre and repulsive YouTube video -- made by someone claiming to be his supporter! That someone was named Ladd Ehlinger, Jr., a filmmaker who founded the ill-named "Turn Right PAC" to make a parody video attacking Janice Hahn and her advocacy of a disastrous gang-prevention program that entailed lavishly funding (with taxpayer dollars) violent "ex"-gang members who promised to use the money to discourage kids from joining gangs. Predictably, the program not only failed to produce any measurable effect, but some of the lucky recipients of millions of dollars from the public treasury simply absconded with the cash and went right back to the gang lifestyle.

Craig Huey had not been mentioning any of this in his campaign, preferring instead to focus on his own solutions rather than attacking his opponent, and this strategy was apparently frustrating to Ladd Ehlinger, Jr., who took it upon himself to make his own attack ad highlighting Hahn's gang payout scandal.

Unfortunately, he thought it would be humorous to hire a pair of Florida rappers to make a satirical song, "Give Me Your Cash, Bitch," with the "bitch" in question as Janice Hahn in the role of a pole-dancing stripper.

The new video seemed to those who viewed it to be a mean-spirited and bizarre attack out of left field, trading in on unflattering stereotypes of thug life.

The media and left-leaning blogs immediately jumped all over the video, dubbing it "the most racist political ad of all time" among other things.

Craig Huey, who had absolutely nothing to do with the ad, and probably had never even heard of Ladd Ehlinger, Jr. or his plans, learned of the fiasco the hard way when reporters started pestering him about it. Huey himself quickly issued a vigorous condemnation of the ad as "racist, sexist, bigoted," a repudiation that was even stronger than Hahn's. Which is not surprising, because Hahn's team immediately recognized the dunderheaded video as a godsend, something that played into their hands.

From that day onward, Hahn and her surrogates have been mentioning the ad incessantly, trying to tar Huey as a racist by association -- even though it was Huey himself who called the ad "racist."

To this day, the "Give Me Your Cash, Bitch" ad remains the only aspect of this race which has drawn national attention, much to Huey's dismay.

One last detail, though: Despite backfiring disastrously, the ad (as noted at Slate) did succeed in bringing the money-for-gangs story back to light, and ever since that time, a growing pall of scandal has been cast over Hahn's reputation as well, as various other media outlets and blogs have followed up on the ugly story which seems to exemplify Hahn's "no accountability" reputation.

Tongue-in-cheek bumper sticker on car outside Huey townhall

My Assessment

I don't live in CA-36, but by chance I was passing through Los Angeles recently and decided to check out the race in detail, even (as seen above) attending a Craig Huey townhall meeting. (I would have gone to a Janice Hahn one too, for balance, but as far as I could tell, she wasn't holding any, or least wasn't advertising them well enough for me to discover them.)

From what I've learned while here, Janice Hahn is the exact kind of party-machine power-hungry politician we need less of these days. It's not so much her political orientation that bothers me -- she's comparatively "moderate" on the liberal/progressive scale -- but rather that she's unapologetically corrupt. She takes money from both sides of the aisle -- developers/corporations on one hand, and unions on the other -- then doles out "pay-for-play" favors to her donors once she's in office:

A substantial portion of Hahn's contributions come from developers, lobbyists and others with business at City Hall. But she also has had help raising money from prominent Democratic leaders, including former President Bill Clinton; Emily's List, which supports pro-choice female Democratic candidates; and others. Organized labor also is providing help with precinct walks, telephone banks and efforts to get people to vote.

This commonplace legalized bribery is exactly the kind of smiley-face corruption that has undermined our economy, as politicians from coast to coast fight for porkbarrel earmarks to pay back their local supporters. Since everybody's doing it, the budget balloons with no one even trying to stop it, and before long we're over our heads in debt.

Janice Hahn will only add to that problem. I can't imagine anyone in good conscience voting for her -- except for those palm-greasers who are part of the game.

One of the slides in Craig Huey's PowerPoint presentation.

Craig Huey is mostly a blank slate, but I see that as a good thing. He's saying all the right things on the economy, which is the only topic that matters these days. His conservative social positions are of little concern to me, because (as he pointed out at the town hall) they're not anywhere close to being part of the Congressional agenda, except in minor ways which hardly merit my notice.

And most of all, a vote for Huey is a vote against the Obama agenda, and that's good enough for me.

More info:

- Early vote forecasts tight race in CA-36

- Craig Huey getting by with little help from GOP friends

- Hahn, Huey far apart on jobs, deficit

- Candidates in 36th Congressional District clash in radio face-off

- Janice Hahn, Craig Huey congressional race gets even nastier

Also see DaTechGuy's interesting response to this post:

- An odd analysis from the usually smart undead on CA-36