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California’s 33rd Congressional district has long been considered one of the Democrats’ most valuable stretches of real estate, but in Tuesday’s open primary Republican Elan Carr was the top vote-getter among a field of 18 candidates vying for a chance to advance to the general election.
Carr jumped to an early lead as the Democrats split the vote in the race to succeed longtime U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman. State Sen. Ted Lieu, who finished in second place, will face off against Carr in the November election. Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, a former DreamWorks executive with strong backing from Hollywood studio heads, finished in third place. Early returns showed author Marianne Williamson, a favorite among industry progressives, neck and neck with public radio host Matt Miller for fourth place. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Carr received 21.5 percent of the vote ahead of Lieu’s 19 percent and Greuel’s 16.8 percent. Williamson finished slightly ahead of Miller with 12.9 percent of the vote to his 12 percent.
Apart from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, there’s nothing quite 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.
Waxman’s decision not to run unleashed a wave of pent-up political ambition on the wealthy Westside, which is deeply liberal and heavily Jewish. Voters were offered a veritable smorgasbord of candidates, which included conventional Democrats, moderate Republicans, and a few independents. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the District 33 candidates spent more than $6.2 million during the primary, making it one of the most expensive races in the country.
The surprise fundraiser was Williamson, who finished atop the money derby with nearly $1.6 million, much of it gathered at Hollywood fundraisers. Lieu, who had the backing of the state’s Democratic establishment, came in second with just over $1 million, while former DreamWorks executive Greuel — who enjoyed the backing of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen — rolled up a bit more than $900,000. Onetime White House aide turned public radio commentator Miller collected $750,000.
Republican Carr, an Iraq war veteran and gang prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, raised $423,000. Although he was outspent by his competitors, Carr managed to get the voters’ attention because of his strong ties to Israel, where his parents lived before immigrating to the United States.
Jewish Journal recently ran a column by David Suissa with a headline asking, “Can Elan Carr split the blue sea?”
“From what I’ve gathered during several conversations over the past few weeks, Carr, who speaks fluent Hebrew and whose family belongs to several Westside synagogues, doesn’t believe the odds are so bad,” Suissa wrote. “First, there’s the math. With all those prominent Democratic candidates splitting the liberal vote, he sees a good chance of getting into the runoff under the Republican ticket.”
It turns out Carr was right.
Now, with the primary behind them, both Carr and Lieu will have to hop back on the fundraising treadmill, since the general election campaign is likely to be more expensive. The unbeatable Waxman spent $2.7 million to retain his seat the last time he ran.
The crowded race to replace another longtime officeholder — Zev Yaroslavsky — as the Westside’s Los Angeles County supervisor was another of those unusual local contests that attracted significant interest — and contributions — from the entertainment industry.
In large part, that was attributable to the presence of two candidates with deep and longstanding Hollywood ties — onetime television actress Sheila Kuehl and Kennedy scion Bobby Shriver, a Santa Monica activist and philanthropist.
Kuehl finished in first place Tuesday with 36 percent of the vote. Shriver finished 7 percentage points behind Kuehl. The two will face off in the November general election.
Though Kuehl received the endorsement of the County Democratic Party, Shriver’s list of campaign donors looked more like that of a candidate for national rather than local office, with names like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jimmy Iovine, Warren Beatty, Larry David, Ted Danson and Michael Douglas.
Among the entertainment industry heavies who contributed the legal maximum to Shriver were Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen, along with Disney CEO Bob Iger, Fox film head Jim Gianopulos and Warner Bros. boss Kevin Tsujihara.
Another candidate on Hollywood’s radar this season was former WGA president Patric Verrone, who decided three months ago to join the race to succeed Lieu in the 26th District. On Tuesday, Verrone came in a distant seventh among eight candidates in the race for Lieu’s state senate seat. Santa Monica-Malibu school board member Ben Allen, the top vote-getter in that race, is expected to face activist Sandra Fluke, who finished in second place, in November’s general election.
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