Southern California voters are hitting the polls Tuesday in California’s 36th district to replace Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who left in the middle of her term to become president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The battle behind her, however, has been far from bookish, with great controversy stemming from a TV spot that portrayed one contestant as a stripper.
Democratic City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is favored to take the left-leaning seat, but Republican Craig Huey has raised some concerns for Democrats by dipping into his personal fortune to finance his campaign. He upset expectations in May by making it into a runoff with Han in a jungle primary that observers thought would yield two Democrats. The latest poll from Democratic outfit PPP gives Hahn a 52-44 lead over Huey, who has poured in about $800,000 of his own money but trails Hahn in overall fundraising.
The election comes at a trying time for Hahn, whose mother, Ramona Hahn, died on Monday at age 86.
The race has garnered national attention in part for featuring a shockingly inflammatory anti-Hahn ad from a conservative independent group. The spot by Turn Right USA goes after Hahn for her work on gang intervention programs in the Los Angeles City Council by depicting her as a stripper who is abused by two gun-toting, rapping gangsters. Huey and national Republicans have condemned the offensive ad, but endorsed its core claim that Hahn supported gang intervention programs that helped ex-criminals who went on to commit more felonies. Subsequent fact checks by Politifact and LA Weekly have disputed the accusations, however.
Republicans haven’t been the only ones dishing out tough attacks: a tracker for the state party recently caught Huey on video being served for child support payments his ex-wife claims that he still owes.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.