Mattie Fein hopes to turn California’s 36th District a shade of red

Perhaps it was spurred on by the Tea Party movement or simply a case of looking to unseat a long-serving member of the House of Representatives. Perhaps it was an impassioned belief that the people of California could do better by jumping more to the red side of the political spectrum.  It may have been all three, and more. Mattie Fein, a Republican from Venice, California, is looking to replace Representative Jane Harman as the representative of the 36th District.

Fein’s campaign biography highlights her eclectic wealth of experience across the board (from academics to business to her standing as a respected writer/political contributor) and what she hopes to focus on.  Those issues which she hopes to make the centerpieces of her campaign, should she be successful, include national security and jobs. “The current remedies of the Democrat-controlled congress consist of little more than a ‘tax and bailout’ job albatross,” she said, while initially announcing her campaign in late 2009. “These short-sighted policies should be replaced with a business-labor friendly environment fueled by enterprise, innovation, and an unflagging work ethic.”

The resume of Harman, who has been elected to Congressional posts for well over 15 years, is nothing to sneer at, however.  Harman is a Harvard graduate, former UCLA professor and a former Carter administration official. On top of that, the competition for Harman’s seat is not being eyed as a particularly precarious one by some pundits, as Harman has long reclaimed her seat. Harman and Fein have both illustrated interest in engaging on topics relevant to international relations, while Harman has shown a willingness to stake her reputation on following her convictions as a Blue Dog, rather than following Pelosi lock-step.

Fein and Harman could have an interesting fight, though. Harman is a conservative Democrat, who has received her fair share of criticism for her conservative views, while Fein is a Republican, though not known as a particularly demonstratively conservative Republican. (Though Fein’s husband, Bruce Fein, is a well-respected conservative thinker and former Reagan administration official, it in no way suggests that she herself shares the same conservative views, though only time will tell.) Both Harman and Fein have been involved with Haitian relief, are known for their nuanced knowledge of foreign affairs, both have cut their teeth on conservative issues, and both appear to have a moderate to conservative bent.

Interestingly, in a state like California, despite its notoriously liberal leanings, independence is king and those who can illustrate their separation from the herd can be rewarded. As a fresh, attractive Republican woman in an atmosphere of frustration fraught with thoughts of “change,” if Fein can hitch her wagon to a star of independent, forward-thinking and well- expressed conservatism,  she could indeed give Harman a run for her money.