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Marcy Winograd faces tough road ahead in challenging Democratic incumbent, Jane Harman

by Adrienne Verrilli, published

For the second time, Marcy Winograd, an accomplished school teacher and Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party, is challenging sitting Congresswoman Jane Harman for the Democratic nomination for California’s 36th District.  Winograd originally challenged Harman in 2006, challenging her vote in favor of the Iraq War, public support for the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping and the allegations that the Congresswoman would seek reduced espionage-related charges against two American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) officials.  Winograd lost that race, garnering 38 percent of Democrat primary voters.  This year, Winograd is back, challenging Harman’s vote on the bank bailout (that virtually all Democrats voted for), as well as the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

However, the political landscape has changed dramatically in just four years.  The Bush Administration is barely a memory among most voters, and the country is in the midst of a deep recession, particularly here in California.   Moreover, this is an off-year election, but unlike 2006, voters, particularly Democrats, will not be driven to the polls to throw out war supporters.  At the same time, though, the political atmosphere weighs heavily against all incumbents. 

Winograd is a traditional progressive Democrat.  She supports investing in a green economy, health care access for all, funding of public education, stem cell research, campaign finance reform, marriage equality, reproductive rights and sensible immigration reform.  Winograd has also called for a Green New Deal to create jobs.  Her proposal calls for investing in public and private projects that develop solar and wind renewable energy, building light rails in all major metropolitan areas, and repairing the country’s infrastructure including our ports, bridges, water and sewage treatment facilities.  Winograd proposes paying for this investment through a reduction in waste and fraud in the military budget and to levy a 25 cent trade for every stock traded.

Harman, on the other hand, is often described as conservative democrat because of some of her stronger positions on national security issues.  However, in looking at her record, there are only a handful of issues that actually divide these candidates.  Harman has a 100 percent voting record with some of the following organizations: Planned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, SEIU, the Human Rights Campaign and La Raza.  She even receives a 91 percent rating from the ACLU, despite her strong support for warrantless wire tapping, and a 93 percent rating from the NAACP.  She also voted in favor of funding the war in Iraq only if there was a timetable to bring the troops home and for increased funding for insurance coverage for poor and low-income children.

Yet, the allegations of a quid pro quo with AIPAC to get herself seated (unsuccessfully) as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and the sudden halt of a Justice Department investigation on those allegations by the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continue to haunt Congresswoman Harman.  Furthermore, Harman voted for an amendment in the House Energy and Commerce’s health reform bill that would have extend the period of monopolies for pharmaceutical companies over biologic medicines to 12 years, blocking any ability for a cheaper, generic version of this medicine to be available in the United States.  Biologics are considered “miracle drugs,” but are outrageously expensive.  They have been shown to fight various forms of cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis among other deadly and debilitating diseases.  However, will those issues be enough for voters to oust Harman?

On the other hand, Winograd has now been publicly chastised by the powerful Southern California Congressman Henry Waxman (D-30) for Winograd’s position on Israel which has now become the focus of the primary race.  In a speech in 2008, Winograd, co-founder of the Los Angeles Jews for Peace, called the two-state solution of the Palestinian Authority existing as a country within Israel’s current borders, an “unrealistic” and “fundamentally wrong” answer to the Arab-Israeli struggle.  Winograd called for a single state in which Israel and Palestine would coexist.  This prompted Waxman to release a letter harshly criticizing Winograd by stating, “’In Marcy Winograd’s foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist.  In Marcy Winograd’s vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights. These are not trivial issues; they cannot be ignored or overlooked."

Does Winograd’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict doom her chances in such an anti-incumbent political environment?  It remains to be seen.

The Democratic primary election date is June 8, 2010.

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