Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the scion of a staunchly Democratic political family, after from Congress to join a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Hahn, 59, hails from the closest thing that Los Angeles has to a political dynasty. Her late father, Kenneth Hahn, was a revered and longtime member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the county's downtown Hall of Adminstration bears his name. Her brother, James Hahn, is a former Los Angeles mayor, city attorney and city controller.
She is among the vying Tuesday for the vacant seat in the 36th Congressional District, which includes Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Venice, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and surrounding communities. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary election, the top two contenders, regardless of party, will face off in a July 12 runoff election.
Hahn has been on the City Council since 2001 and faces being term limited out of office. She touts her efforts to clean up the Port of Los Angeles as one of her chief accomplishments while on the City Council. The 2006 Clean Air Action Plan at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach shifted the movement of goods to off-peak traffic hours and set goals to reduce pollution by at least 45 percent within five years. The plan has grown to include a Clean Truck Program that aims to phase out pollution-spewing diesel trucks with more environmentally friendly vehicles.
"I'm running for Congress because I believe it's time we brought the money we are spending on wars abroad back home to create good jobs, to provide universal health care coverage, to protect funding for schools, Social Security and Medicare and clean up our environment," Hahn told the audience at a recent forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. "If I'm elected to Congress, I plan to fight for investments in clean energy like wind and solar power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to create thousands of new jobs in our community."
During her campaign, Hahn has emphasized that she favor investments in clean, renewable energy that she believes will help the environment and create jobs in the 36th Congressional District.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed Hahn for Congress and she has racked up numerous endorsements, including political backing from fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), El Segundo Mayor Eric Busch, Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
In addition, she has received endorsements from numerous political groups, including the Progressive Democratic Club, the Mexican-American Democratic Club, the Long Beach Young Democrats and the Long Beach Women’s Democratic Study Club.
She's also been endorsed by a slew of labor groups, including the California Labor Federation, Service Employees International Union of California and two chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steelworkers.
Her endorsements also include many public safety organizations, including the Los Angeles Police Protective League, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 and the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association.
Hahn has outpaced Democratic rival Secretary of State Debra Bowen in fundraising, having amassed more than $423,700 since launching her campaign, compared with the roughly $338,000 that Bowen has raised through the federal filing period that ended April 27. About half of her campaign contributions have come from City Hall lobbyists and developers, including donations from billionaire developer and philanthropist Eli Broad and builder Rick Caruso, whose projects include The Grove at Farmers Market, the Waterside Marina del Rey and The Village at Playa Vista.
Hahn also has been the beneficiary of independent expenditures by a doctors' group called the Cooperative of American Physicians. The group has filed three reports showing that it has spent more than $75,000 on mailings in support of Hahn. Independent expenditures allow groups to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of campaigns as long as they do not coordinate with the campaign.
Hahn, a San Pedro resident who is the mother of three and grandmother of five, responded to a Patch questionnaire about issues facing the district and the nation:
Patch: What do you think is the biggest issue facing our district?
Janice Hahn: Our district is home to one of the best-educated and most innovative workforces in the nation. The No. 1 challenge we face is bringing jobs back to our neighborhoods. Our community, with the right leadership, can become the engine of our regional and state economy.
Job creation will not come easy. I am the only candidate who has offered a comprehensive Green Jobs plan. My package of policy initiatives will not only bring 25,000 new jobs to our district, it will fuel the creation of a new industry—green energy—allowing us to help the economy, clean the environment, and once again lead the world in innovation. To view my jobs plan, [visit my website].
Patch: What do you think is the biggest challenge to our nation’s economy and what do you think the federal government should do to facilitate economic recovery?
Hahn: The health of our economy is attached to job growth. I believe in the American worker. By returning our community to full employment, our economy can grow, and along with wise budget planning out of Washington, we can address significant issues like the nation’s debt and trade deficit. It all comes back to jobs.
One of my top priorities will be to create more sustainable, well-paying jobs in Southern California. In order to do this, we must begin with ending our wars abroad and bringing home the resources to make investments here. As part of my Green Jobs plan, I will fight for tax incentives that foster innovation, encourage businesses to make new hires, and attract new investments in local industries. I will invest in the technology sector— including the South Bay aerospace industries—to generate more high-skill, high-wage jobs.
When it comes to investing in our future, nothing is as important as education. As a former teacher, I am dedicated to making sure our children have access to a first-rate education and that tomorrow’s workers have the tools to drive our economy forward. We must give our labor force the training, knowledge and ingenuity to perform at the highest levels. I will ensure that early learning childhood programs across the district receive the funding they need, make sure our high school students receive the solid academic foundation to graduate, and fight to make college affordable for everyone.
Clean air and clean water must be a part of this economic recovery. I have been championing these issues since I was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2001. I’ve worked to reduce diesel air emissions from port and truck operations by 80 percent. I’ve worked to tackle the traffic that pollutes our skies, staunchly advocating for increases in public transportation and new investment in our transportation and infrastructure networks. I’ve backed innovative measures like the 30/10 initiative that will allow us to realize 30 years' worth of advances in the next 10, and if elected, I will fight for this in Congress.
Patch: How will you specifically encourage job growth in Southern California?
Hahn: The following proposals are part of my Green Jobs Plan that I believe Congress should focus on as a way to create jobs, begin to end our dependency on foreign oil, continue to clean our environment, and ensure that America stays competitive in a changing global economy. If elected to Congress, I will put forward legislation on the following:
1. Improve federal funding and regulatory policy for green energy. Green energy and clean technologies can become the driving engine of America’s economy. But technological innovators and local companies face daunting prospects as they start up and grow. New energy technology requires significant investment before they become profitable. To counter this challenge, there are policies that I will support, like creating a Clean Energy Deployment Administration, also known as a Green Bank, to provide adequate start-up capital for companies building green technologies and green-tech jobs. I will also work to expand the Security and Energy and Manufacturing Act, which provides a 30 percent rebate for the cost of creating and expanding clean energy companies.
2. Promote “local energy.” Everyone wins when we create local energy solutions—solar, wind and fuel cell generation combined with energy efficiency—in our neighborhoods. We improve our local environment by providing reliable, pollution-free electricity. We avoid building wasteful and dangerous transmission lines. And we create new installation and retrofitting jobs. I will work to pass the HOMESTAR Program, which promotes construction jobs and energy efficiency by offering tax and cash rebates for green home renovations; and will support programs that facilitate more local energy generation and efficiency.
3. Create a stable clean energy market. If clean energy markets are stable and secure, businesses can invest confidently in emerging technologies. This creates a solid foundation for jobs. Federal and state governments can establish clear environmental standards and certainty of demand, so that business leaders will invest in these projects today. To do this, I will fight to set a national goal of 35 percent renewable energy production by 2035, and create national energy standards to make the system easier to navigate.
4. Invest in American innovation. Throughout history, public investment has led to the development of new industries, like GPS, nuclear power and the Internet. The aerospace industry here has been a primary beneficiary, with its resulting high salary jobs. By making smart investments in American clean energy innovation, we will create and draw high-paying jobs to California. I will also fight to create more energy innovation hubs, bringing together the best minds to solve our energy challenges. We need a hub right here in the South Bay.
5. Build the green infrastructure of tomorrow. In this period of strained government budgets, it is tempting to radically cut spending on our community’s infrastructure. However, I believe that it is time to focus on building green infrastructure now, rather than laying out more congested roadways. We should invest in expanding light rail and improving public transit, as well as replacing diesel buses with cleaner burning ones.
California has begun many green infrastructure projects and we should expedite construction with programs such as Los Angeles’ 30/10 plan, a federal loan guarantee that at no additional cost will cut 20 years off the expansion of Los Angeles’ subway system. In the Southern California region, it is estimated that the 30/10 project will create nearly 160,000 new jobs.
6. Level the playing field with big oil. It’s a dirty secret that 37 countries, including the United States, subsidize oil use. Oil companies received over $550 billion globally in government handouts last year. Renewable energy is less competitive because we give unfair advantages to the most unappealing fuel sources. This imbalance must end. I will fight to end U.S. oil subsidies, while also working to design laws that favor green energy whenever possible.
Patch: Standard and Poor’s recently predicted the U.S. credit rating would be downgraded due to the federal government’s handling of the nation’s budget deficit. What budget items do you think should be cut, and what needs to have continued or even increased funding?
Hahn: The partisan divide in Washington is thwarting reasonable solutions to this problem. We cannot solve our budget imbalance with increased taxes or spending cuts alone—we need both. But we must do so wisely. My one overriding goal in this matter is using our tax dollars to encourage long-term growth. This means continued spending on research, education and infrastructure. And no more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
On the matter of revenue, I believe that individuals that make millions and billions of dollars a year need to pay their fair share, and should have their taxes increased back to the 1990s levels, before the Bush tax cuts were in place. If we want to tackle this deficit, we need to roll back the Bush tax cuts on those making more than $1 million a year.
At the same time we should take a hard look at revising the corporate tax code. We currently have one of the highest statutory corporate tax rates, and also one of the lowest effective rates. This is because our tax code is riddled with loopholes. Large corporations employ hundreds of accountants to exploit it, costing our nation billions every year in unpaid corporate taxes. We should lower statutory rate, eliminate loopholes and create a tax code that encourage job growth here at home—instead of jobs being sent overseas.
At the same time, we must make cuts in federal spending, but we must not sacrifice our national security, investments in education and job growth. Right now we are spending $5-$7 billion a month on the war in Afghanistan—just $7 billion alone can fund our education system here in California. If elected, I will be a strong advocate in Congress for bringing our troops home from abroad so that we can use some of those funds that we are spending on wars abroad and use them for investments at home in education and job creation.
I also want to make sure that we are not spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize old and perfectly healthy industries. We spend over $4 billion a year in handouts to oil companies. Big oil does not need our taxpayers supporting them. We are facing an outrageous spike in gas prices. This money would be better spent giving drivers green energy alternatives.
Finally, one of the most difficult but important areas to reduce costs in is health care. This is an issue that hits every American square in the pocketbook. Health care costs are rising twice as fast as inflation. I strongly oppose the Republican plan to shift this burden onto the backs of our seniors and poor. The Affordable Care Act has innovative programs, such as accountable care organizations, aimed at increasing medical effectiveness and minimizing costs. These programs should be encouraged and broadened. I also agree with President Obama’s proposal to use Medicare's purchasing power to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors.
Patch: Where do you stand on No Child Left Behind? What would you do to improve the state of education in this country and in California?
Hahn: I am a strong supporter of President Obama’s efforts to improve the original NCLB legislation. We need to make sure we set the highest standards for our students, and yet, not create an educational system that “teaches to the test.” The Race to the Top program has prompted revolutionary changes in our methods. I was proud of California’s plan to claim these education grants, and want to ensure that the proposed measures are strengthened, implemented and rewarded with federal dollars.
Endless studies have confirmed the long-term value of educating our children from the youngest ages. I plan to ensure early learning childhood programs across the district receive the funding they need. High school students must also receive a solid academic foundation to successfully graduate from school. And this means accountability. Teachers and administrators must work together to assure we have the most effective instructors in the classroom. Finally, I believe in making college affordable for everyone. I will ensure that Pell Grants and other forms of financial assistance are made available to students and their families.
Congresswoman Harman’s efforts last year to shine a spotlight on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education was spot-on, and that message should not be lost with her recent retirement from Congress. There is no greater investment that we can make for our country’s future than to encourage education in the STEM fields. Congress and the president should heed Jane’s warning: “We can’t build rockets without rocket scientists.”
Patch: Where do you stand on federal environmental policy? The Supreme Court is now considering the merit of a nuisance lawsuit against electric companies over their greenhouse gas emissions. Do you think the courts should get involved in climate change policy or is this a role better suited for Congress?
Hahn: A healthy environment is nonnegotiable. But environmental protections and job growth need not be at odds. Investing in renewable energy and clean technologies is one way to move our economy forward and help stem the tide of global climate change. Investing in new energy solutions will ease our dependence on foreign oil, help spur economic growth and create new, green jobs for our district. I have a proven track record in this regard. I have encouraged and nurtured green technology companies working at the Port of Los Angeles. I have supported the Clean Air Action Plan and the Clean Trucks Programs, which have spurred entire new industries and businesses, many in the 36th District.
Congress has a responsibility to maintain environmental safeguards. Unfortunately, some Republicans remain beholden to old and polluting industries. For this reason, when Congress fails to act, I do believe other parts of the government have a legitimate basis to step in: not only courts, but the executive branch, state and local governments.
California and other states have been leaders in developing innovative policies—often ahead of the federal government. In Congress, I will fight for the federal government to adopt targets equal to ones set by California’s AB 32, and simultaneously, work with colleagues from other states to secure local legislation that spreads these standards. Thankfully, California is moving ahead with AB 32; and Los Angeles’ utility will be off coal by 2020, if not sooner. As a councilwoman, I have been a steadfast supporter of LADWP’s transition to clean energy, and pledge to work for an aggressive National Renewable Portfolio Standard that will complement what we are already accomplishing here at home.
Patch: Federal energy regulators have approved the test phase of a wave farm off the coast of San Onofre. Do you approve of that project, specifically, and what are your thoughts on the development of wave energy in Southern California, generally?
Hahn: There is no single silver-bullet energy source. Our energy needs will be met by portfolio of conservation, efficient transmission and multiple energy sources unique to a given area. One thing is key—that we reduce our dependence on high pollution oil and coal.
Patch: Do you think that the nuclear energy plants in California need additional safety regulation? Do you think we should move away from nuclear energy? What would you say to people who are worried that what happened in Japan will happen here?
Hahn: Needless to say, I like most Americans was devastated by the horrible events in Japan, and instantly concerned about its implications on our nuclear energy sector. I know we maintain strict safety regulations at our plants, but I believe we must re-evaluate American interests in nuclear power. We were once told that offshore oil drilling is safe. The BP disaster in the Gulf proved it was not. We were also told nuclear energy is safe, but after events in Japan, it is imperative we reassess plant security.
In the short-term, with 20 percent of the nation’s electricity coming from nuclear, our focus should be guaranteeing the safe operation of existing plants. But in the future, I believe we need to encourage investment and innovation in inherently safe technologies like wind and solar. Making sure that our power sources are clean, renewable and most importantly safe is crucial for the future of California and the United States.
Patch: As a member of Congress, which health care legislation would you support or oppose?
Hahn: My goals in health care are to reduce costs and ensure universal health care coverage for all Americans.
Recently, President Obama proposed using Medicare's purchasing power to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors as part of his deficit reduction plan. I agree with the president on this proposal and believe that Congress should act now to make this proposal reality. Also, while I believe that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act law was a step in the right direction, I believe that Congress needs to do more to improve access and expand coverage to all Americans. If elected, I would work with the Democratic leadership in Congress to create a health care public option so that all Americans could have the opportunity to obtain health care coverage. Congress should also listen to small businesses about the overburden health care paperwork that they are required to fill out. Congress should encourage the use of an electronic system that costs less, is more efficient and more user-friendly for businesses.
Patch: Do you think same-sex marriage should be legalized? Do you think it is a federal or state issue? Why?
Hahn: Same-sex marriage is a moral issue. LGBT members of our community should have the same rights as all Americans. These rights should be enforced on the federal level. Having been raised by a civil rights pioneer, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenny Hahn, I have always believed in true equality, regardless of race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation.
I believe that every American should have the right to marry whoever he or she chooses. I stood up against Proposition 8 and supported efforts to overturn it. I am strongly against the Defense of Marriage Act and proud of President Obama’s effort to do away with "don’t ask don’t tell." In Congress, I will be a fighter for the LGBT community and will do everything I can to ensure equality for all Americans.
Patch: What is your position on America’s involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya?
Hahn: We have spent $1.3 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I opposed the use of force in Iraq from the beginning, and I believe that our mission to disable al-Qaida in Afghanistan is complete—especially after the death of Osama bin Laden. It is time to bring our troops home and end the enormous cost burdens.
Libya is a different situation. I believe that the President should have come to Congress first before deciding to participate in the Libya campaign. However, I do agree with the president—there are times when America and our allies should act to prevent a humanitarian disaster. I hope for a quick and decisive end to the Libya campaign.
Our national security means more than fighting wars, it means guiding our military spending to help the economy at home and safeguard the soldiers when they return. In Congress, I will do everything I can to continue to ensure that the South Bay aerospace industry continues to receive federal funding for projects, research and development. Just a month ago, the Boeing Co. announced a $35 billion contract to build refueling tankers for the United States Air Force, resulting in 4,500 new jobs in California. I will encourage the development of dual-purpose technologies that can lead to new industries—just like military spending in our district helped spark GPS and commercial space innovations. And I will work to increase funding to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars go back to school, get job training and receive the health care they deserve.
Patch: Do you intend to continue Jane Harman's endeavors to ease traffic congestion in the district? If so, how?
Hahn: One proposal that Jane Harman stood behind and which I intend to champion is Mayor Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative. Not only is this a key to a cutting edge transportation network in Los Angeles County, I believe it is a model that should and could be reproduced all across America. Back in 2008, voters of Los Angeles County voted to tax themselves a half-cent more on their sales tax in order to pay for an expansion of our subway, rail and infrastructure projects throughout the region. California has already begun many green infrastructure projects, but financial limits force us to drag out the building process and delay the benefits. The 30/10 plan proposes to expedite construction with a federal loan guarantee that at no additional cost will cut 20 years off the expansion of Los Angeles’ subway system, and can help to begin projects like extending the Green Line into LAX Airport. In the Southern California region, it is estimated that the 30/10 project will create nearly 160,000 new jobs. In an effort to help our local economies and create more good jobs in Southern California, Congress should pass this legislation as soon as possible.
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of profiles of candidates running for the 36th Congressional District seat. Come back to Patch for more profiles and campaign coverage.