Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn became the first member of her staunchly Democratic political family to win federal office Tuesday night by defeating Republican tea party candidate Craig Huey in an election for a vacant seat in Congress.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hahn had 54.6 percent of the vote, compared to Huey's 45.4 percent with about 22 percent voter turnout.
"We worked very hard, so hard, and tonight the voters of the 36th District have spoken," Hahn told a throng of supporters who gathered at Ports O'Call restaurant in her hometown of San Pedro.
The vote showed the electorate wanted common sense solutions in Washington to improve the economy and create jobs, Hahn said.
"I believe in all my heart that they want us to get out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "And I believe they want us to protect Social Security and Medicare. And they always want us to fight to protect a woman's right to choose. They want us to take care of our environment and I believe that I heard, and the votes prove it tonight, that they want to end these tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires."
Hahn's victory came one day after the death of her 86-year-old mother, Ramona, who was the wife of the late, longtime Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and the mother of former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn.
"As you know, our family was devastated yesterday by our mother's passing," Hahn said. "Ramona Hahn was without a doubt our rock and our driving force. It was through her strength and support that our father, Kenny, became one of the most beloved leaders in Los Angeles. Our parents were a team and they cared deeply about their family and their community."
Hahn said her parents inspired her and brother James to pursue public office and she knew her parents were looking down from heaven and were smiling.
Hahn and Huey were vying to fill a seat in the 36th Congressional District that became vacant in February when longtime former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) resigned to lead the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank in Washington D.C.
The two candidates waged a particularly vituperative campaign after they emerged as the top two vote-getters from a crowded field of more than a dozen hopefuls in a May special primary election.
Huey, a long-time Torrance business owner who lives outside the district in Rolling Hills Estates, surprised election watchers with his second-place finish in the primary since the district skews toward Democrats.
The largely coastal district stretches from Venice to San Pedro and has 340,000 registered voters with 45 percent registered as Democrats, compared with 27 percent registered as Republicans and 22 percent declining to state their party preference, according to the California Secretary of State's office.
The primary election had a voter turnout of only 18.6 percent and Huey edged out California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, by only 709 votes to reach the special general election.
The Hahn and Huey camps pulled no punches during a general election campaign dominated by negative ads. Hahn's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in mid-June alleging that Turn Right USA, a new so-called Super PAC, made a prohibited coordinated campaign contribution by producing a raunchy online campaign video that portrayed Hahn as a stripper with gun-toting gang members taking money from her. The ad, titled "Give us your cash, b--ch," was immediately condemned by Hahn and Huey upon its release.
Hahn ran the first television ad in the runoff election with a 30-second spot that compared Huey to former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The "Palin-Huey" commercial said both oppose abortion in all cases and both support plans to end Medicare while supporting tax breaks for the wealthy. The ad stated that Huey alone called Planned Parenthood a "murder mill." It was the first salvo in which Hahn portrayed Huey as having an extreme right wing agenda.
Huey waited until after midnight to concede defeat and told Patch that he will return to operating his business and would later evaluate whether he would run again.
"We didn't achieve what we wanted to, but we shocked people that we
did so well," Huey said. "We have many things here that we can work with to go into 2012."
Huey decried the campaign mudslinging, saying that he met people who believed he owned a yacht, was going to kill Medicare and was against veterans due to misleading mailers.
"I could never believe it could be so dirty. Some people criticize me
for a couple of things we did in the campaign, but I feel we did it
with integrity," Huey said. "If I run again, or whoever I help run, I will never do what my opponent did to us. That's just something I won't do. There's a level of integrity that you have to have."
Hahn will represent the district until the term expires Jan. 3, 2013 and could face a markedly different electorate if she runs again due to redistricting.
Patch's Joshua Cain contributed to this report.
(UPDATED at 1:50 a.m. to include quotes from Craig Huey.)