Secretary of State Bowen eyes congressional run

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a veteran Capitol Democrat who represented the Marina del Rey area in the Legislature for 14 years, is likely to run for the 36th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Jane Harman, who announced Monday she was stepping down.

Janice Hahn, a member of the Los Angeles City Council, announced that she, too, is running for Harman’seat.

Any resignation from a statewide office invariably sparks a political fight in the Capitol.

If Bowen leaves for Congress, Gov. Brown — himself a former secretary of state — can appoint her successor, which will require confirmation by both houses of the Legislature.

The most recent confirmation of a statewide constitutional officer was former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointment of Republican Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor to replace Democrat John Garamendi, who left to successfully run for congress. Maldonado, a Republican, was defeated in the general election.

Harman is expected to formally leave her congressional seat on March 1. She plans to head up the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan think tank.

Bowen, meanwhile, did not formally announce her candidacy, but she appeared all but certain to run. She can run for Congress while serving as secretary of state. But if she wins the congressional seat, she must step down from her statewide office before going to Congress

“She (Bowen) will make her decision soon, if not immediately. She is seriously considering running. She is very, very seriously considering running,” said her campaign aide Steve Barkan. Starting in 1992, Bowen served three terms in the Assembly and two in the Senate. In 2006, she was elected secretary of state, and she was reelected last year.

Later Monday, Hahn issued a statement saying she would seek Harman’s seat to ”create new jobs, expand clean energy technologies and ensure that local small business owners get the help” she said.

Gov. Brown has two weeks to set the date for the special election to fill Harman’s seat and the general election must be held within 135 days.

Hahn’s family has been linked to Los Angeles politics for decades, including father Kenneth Hahn, who served for decades on the Los Angeles board of supervisors, and James Hahn, her brother and former mayor.

Bowen’s potential departure as a statewide office holder leaves an opening that is likely to draw contenders, as well. 

But the person with the leg up will be whoever Brown appoints to the position. That person, if confirmed, could serve the remainder of the first term, then be subject to approval from voters if he or she decides to run in 2014.

Once the governor announces his appointment, the Legislature has 90 days to act. A simple majority vote is required in both houses to confirm the nominee. If both houses fail to take the nomination up, the candidate automatically is confirmed. If only one house confirms, the nomination is rejected. To reject a nominee on the floor, lawmakers must vote to reject and not “lay off” on the vote – an issue that has arisen in the past.

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