California's Craig Huey a GOP House Upset in the Works

Just over a month after Democrats scored a major upset by winning the nationally watched U.S. House race in New York’s historically Republican 26th District, are Republicans poised to soon turn the tables by winning a similar upset in California’s traditionally Democratic 36th District?

With the special election July 12 to fill the seat of former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman (who resigned to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington) less than a week away, the race between leftist Democrat Janice Hahn and conservative Republican Craig Huey appears to be a lot closer than one would think.  After all, the 36th District (southern Los Angeles County) gave both President Obama and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown 64% of the vote and has been held by Harman for all but two years since it was first carved out back in 1992.

But in May, the so-called political “experts” started to rethink their assumptions that Democratic retention of California’s 36th was a foregone conclusion.  In the initial balloting, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Hahn topped the contest with 24% of the vote, followed by Torrance advertising company owner Huey with 22.6% and Secretary of State and fellow Democrat Debra Bowen with 21%.  Under Golden State election law, all candidates regardless of party appear on the same ballot and a runoff is held between the top two vote-getters.

“And [Hahn’s] campaign played rough with Debra Bowen,” Huey told HUMAN EVENTS, “and she has never endorsed Hahn in the runoff.”  The GOP hopeful went on to note that “we have more than 5,000 yard signs throughout the district, and many of them are in Democratic neighborhoods.” 

Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 45% to 27% district wide, but another 20% of registered voters are “Decline to State”—the Golden State’s version of “independent.”  Huey insisted that his strong message of cutting taxes, reducing spending, and reform measures to save Medicare are getting strong responses among Democrats and independents.

“And she is talking the usual liberal line about ‘investing in the economy’ to create ‘green jobs’ and raising taxes on those who make over $250,000 a year,” he added.  “It isn’t selling here.”

Huey also noted that the Libertarian and American Independent Parties are working for his election July 12. 

But the strongest sign that Hahn is nervous seems to be the attention she is giving to the GOP hopeful.  As Huey told us, “When Bill Clinton does a national fund-raising letter on her behalf and she spends $25,000 on three mailers attacking me and calling me the candidate of the rich, you can tell she’s nervous.”  (He chuckled over being called the candidate of the rich. “I live in a house built in the mid-1950s.  I’m a small-business owner—that’s it.”) 

All told, the election of Craig Huey to Congress next week would have to be called an upset.  But given the unusual circumstances and Democratic divisions—not to mention a turnout expected to be no more than 15% of registered voters—it could happen.

(To see Craig Huey’s website, go to