The retirement of liberal Democratic warhorse Henry Waxman has opened up a House seat that includes almost all of Southern California’s most tony neighborhoods: Malibu, Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, and Rancho Palos Verdes. Up to a dozen candidates will run in the non-partisan June primary, in which the top two finishers, regardless of party, then advance to a November runoff. Two possible surprising outcomes: Feminist icon Sandra Fluke going to Congress or the district electing a small-business-owner Republican-turned-independent.
Fluke became a celebrity in 2012 when Republicans foolishly declined to let the Georgetown law student testify at a hearing on how Obamacare’s contraception mandate limited religious freedom because she wasn’t an “expert” on the subject. Cries of outrage turned into non-stop MSNBC coverage when Rush Limbaugh labeled her a “slut” for demanding free contraceptives (he later apologized). Fluke became Exhibit A in the Democratic allegation that Republicans were waging a “War on Women” and got a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
Fluke has since moved to Los Angeles and become a “social-justice advocate.” Her limited time in the Golden State hasn’t stopped liberal activists such as DNC operative Hilary Rosen from promoting her candidacy, and Fluke says she is seriously considering a run. Even though several elected Democrats are lining up to run, name ID in the expensive L.A. market is everything and Fluke trumps almost all of her potential challengers in that category.
What worries some liberal strategists is this: Fluke rides her fame and her fundraising advantage with feminists into one of the two spots in the November runoff for the seat. The other slot is taken by Bill Bloomfield, a businessman who spent millions of his own money and held Henry Waxman to an eight-point victory in 2012 — a banner Democratic year in California. While both candidates would be newcomers, Bloomfield would have the money and name ID to be competitive.
Bloomfield told the Los Angeles Times last night that he is “leaning towards running” again and is taking a poll to gauge his chances. The district is winnable for an independent like Bloomfield, given that 28 percent of its voters are registered Republican and another 28 percent are independent or registered with minor parties.
A former president of a commercial laundry business, the 61-year-old businessman says his campaign priorities will be “getting our budget under control” and “putting a moratorium on regulations” that have slowed California’s job growth.
Of course, a Fluke–Bloomfield matchup may not happen. It’s possible one or both of them will not run. And Wendy Greuel, who lost a close race for mayor of Los Angeles last year, is already running as a Democrat and would compete with Fluke for the support of some feminist groups.
But if it does happen, you can bet a Fluke–Bloomfield contest in the middle of the country’s second-biggest media market would get lots of national attention. Both MSNBC and Rush Limbaugh will be watching closely.