Hahn Hints at Bowen’s Prior GOP Membership in Calif. 36 Race

Posted April 1, 2011 at 2:32pm

Updated, 4:52 p.m.

One day before a Democratic special endorsing caucus meets to officially support a candidate in the 36th district special election, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s campaign is presenting her as the only true Democrat in the race. It turns out California Secretary of State Debra Bowen was once a Republican.

The Hahn campaign hinted in a press release that she is the only Democratic candidate who has never been a member of another political party as it trotted out the endorsements of four officers of the state Democratic Party.

“Janice Hahn has always been committed to Democratic values,” First Vice Chairman Alex Rooker said. State party Secretary Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer said, “there is only one candidate in this race that has always been a Democrat.”

“I was born a Democrat, I was raised a Democrat, and when I am elected to Congress, I will never forget that I’m a Democrat,” said Hahn, whose father was a Los Angeles County supervisor for 40 years and a well-connected Democrat.

Marcy Winograd, who twice challenged now-former Rep. Jane Harman and has supported Green Party candidates over Democrats, also is running.

Bowen admitted before her first bid for elected office that she had previously been a Republican. While running for the 53rd Assembly district in 1992, Bowen told the Los Angeles Times that she was a Republican until 1984, when she realized the GOP had changed and now lacked “compassion and tolerance and respect for others.”

Bowen spokesman Luis Vizcaino told Roll Call: “Yes it’s true, Debra Bowen has only been a Democrat for nearly 30 years.”

Bowen has become a darling of the left, earning the backing of Democracy for America and Howard Dean in this race. She refers to herself as a technology geek, which has partially helped garner support among the net roots. And Winograd, an antiwar activist, has positioned herself against Hahn as the candidate who will oppose the country inserting itself in foreign wars.

They are all competing in the May 17 open primary, for which 16 candidates have been certified. Unless a candidate takes more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a July 12 runoff to determine the special election winner.

The Saturday special endorsing caucus will allow one of the three top Democrats to claim the party mantle as they compete for votes in the crowded, bipartisan field. A candidate must take 60 percent of the 119 delegates’ votes to win the endorsement.

“I think tomorrow is going to be a well-attended family gathering where three different sides of the family engage,” said Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. “At the end of the day it will be very hard for any one candidate to receive 60 percent. But it has been done, and this race has been full of surprises.”

The district leans Democratic enough that neither national party is expected to expend any resources on the race.

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