Yesterday I was asked by someone in City of LA government my thoughts on the Congressional race to fill Waxman's seat. The race has had some recent buzz on local radio as there's 11 days left and there are four people who are in the hunt for two chances at a runoff.
I put those thoughts here at my personal website, and they're a little gossipy and a little numbers-driven too and those thoughts involve talking to people involved with the race. But I'll say after the jump what I didn't say there that might be of interest to people far outside the District.
By registration, a Republican has almost no chance of winning. But there is a chance. That chance is amplified by Williamson, running as an independent who is disillusioned with Obama. That is a message that resonates even if Williamson is unlikely to finish in the money. If she continues to carry that message to the district (and the country, or her corner of it) after the primary - and writers do typically like to stay oracular, in fact, races for them rarely end, regardless of where they finish - it will only hurt the Democrat.
The thing about November will be that that message won't translate into a vote for either person who makes the runoff. It will simply after June 3 translate into Democratic voters staying home. Even if, as is expected, two Democrats make the runoff. But if Elan Carr were somehow to replace Lieu, or even Wendy Greuel (who appears to be the frontrunner) as one of the two candidates in the General, Democratic inertia will give either Lieu or Greuel a tougher time--even if both would rather face the Republican Carr than face each other.
Williamson is not likely to crack 15% of the vote in June, and you will probably need 25% to make the general. Nonetheless, bizarrely in recent weeks, Greuel, perhaps recognizing that her best shot for eventual election is a Greuel-Carr race, has been going after not Carr but Williamson, especially with regards to her legal-but-with-roadblocks position on abortion.
That hurts nearly everyone on the left, because it makes Williamson all the more determined to carry her independent message to the masses, such as they are. I don't think the nuanced abortion statements bugs people nearly as much as Team Greuel has calculated, and there is always the danger for Team Greuel that if it successfully does indeed bother anyone, they will go clicking around and maybe settle on some truly alternative candidate like Kristie Holmes rather than old school Wendy. Wendy was described to me by one woman when she lost last year this way:
"'She didn't just look dumb next to Eric, she looked San Bernardino dumb, especially in those stiff jackets,'" a snippy friend of mine in Jimmy Choos and a breezy blouse told me." That is what I reported when she lost, and whether or not it belongs in politics, that's what many people in fashion-breezy LA were thinking last year.
And that is still Greuel, and conversely Williamson and her crew have been described to me as people who went to a Montana Avenue yoga class to make sure they stay beautiful and cool all day long. They aren't the usual operatives, activists, voters.
The other thing about Greuel that is of concern to Democrats is that she has no natural base in the District. Hell, she doesn't even live in it. I've spoken to a few more people since I posted my thoughts, and I now think that any candidate, even Greuel, reaching 30% in the primary is at best a 50-50 proposition now. Only Greuel has the organization to get to 30%. And yet when you look at the map, it's hard to see anyplace where Wendy might have a base in the district. You have a recognizable Lieu base. You have a Carr base: Westlake Village and Calabasas. You even have a Williamson base: Montana Avenue to Malibu, in fact. But where is the Wendy home court? It's a very small number of precincts immediately east of the 405 south of Mulholland. That small LA finger immediately below the city of West Hollywood is really the only place that is up for grabs.
This is not saying that all blue-blooded Democrats should automatically back Lieu. But I am saying that unless two Democrats face off in the General, this seat is no slam dunk - which you probably already know anyway from the last race, but for very different reasons this time around.