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How Hollywood Money Could Decide Rep. Henry Waxman's Successor

Issue 6 REP Waxman Comp - H 2014

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban will likely play a key role in the race for the intensely sought-after seat.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Henry Waxman's exit from Congress after almost 40 years in the House throws up for grabs one of the most valuable stretches of real estate on the Democrats' fundraising map.

Apart from Manhattan's Upper West Side, there's nothing like California's 33rd Congressional District, which stretches from Los Angeles' South Bay up the coast to Malibu and from Santa Monica through Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills and into Hancock Park. Its constituents include not only stars, executives and agents but also such Democratic financiers as Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban.

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"If you look at Obama's contribution reports, this district accounted for a large amount of what the president raised," says political consultant Rick Taylor. "It's not an easy district to represent, but it will be intensely sought-after." Indeed, three ZIP codes in District 33 -- Beverly Hills (90210), Pacific Palisades (90272) and Brentwood (90049) -- were among Obama's top five 2012 fundraising zones in California, with more than $2.5 million raised.

Hollywood money likely will play a key role in the June 3 primary. Candidates in the race or weighing a run include former DreamWorks executive and L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, who lost to Eric Garcetti in the most recent mayoral election; California Secretary of State Debra Bowen; state Sens. Ted Lieu from Torrance, Fran Pavley from Agoura Hills, and Brent Roske, producer of the web series Chasing the Hill. Retiring L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime Waxman ally, probably could capture the seat, but the 65-year-old has told friends he is unlikely to run.

Greuel most likely would have support from the DreamWorks troika of Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, but her pro-business orientation and Valley background (she says she will move to the Westside) might make her too conservative for the 33rd. Moreover, her campaign could split Democrats, as did her race against Garcetti, opening the door (slightly) for one of three independents in the running. They include inspirational author Marianne Williamson and South Bay businessman Bill Bloomfield.

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"Think about it: Henry has held this seat for 40 years," says Tennis Channel chief Ken Solomon, a top DNC fundraiser. "Whoever gets this district could make it a career for life."

The 33rd is one of the nation's most heavily Jewish districts, so any Waxman wannabe likely will have to be steadfastly pro-Israel. The post won't come cheap: Since 2000, Waxman, 74, personally has raised $6.6 million, the bulk of it from individual donors and PACs. During his last cycle, when he opposed the self-financed Bloomfield, Waxman spent $2.7 million, which translates to a heady $15.50 a vote. (House winners in 2012 spent an average of $1.5 million.) There is no bargain real estate on the Westside -- not even its House seat.