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Santa Monica’s State Assembly Rep Considers Congressional Bid as Waxman Retires

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 31, 2014 -- State Assemblymember and former Santa Monica mayor Richard Bloom is considering a bid to replace Representative Henry Waxman, 74, who announced Thursday he would retire after 40 years in Congress.

Bloom, who is currently up for re-election to a second term in the Assembly, is one of many potential candidates to replace the veteran Congressman, including Ted Lieu, who represents Santa Monica and the South Bay in the State Senate.

Lieu announced Thursday that he was “seriously looking at” making a bid. While Lieu is expected to make an announcement tomorrow, Bloom told The Lookout Thursday he wouldn’t make a decision before next week.

“I have confidence in my ability to win,” said Bloom, who started his second year in the State Assembly this month.

“There are many other things to think about. First, and foremost, I haven’t had a chance to even begin the conversation with my family,” he said. “That’s where I will start.”

With the June 3 primary election only five months away, the field of candidates will likely become clear very soon.

Among those considered potential candidates are included state lawmaker Fran Pavley and former Assemblymember Betsy Butler, who lost her seat to Bloom in 2012.

Former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, who lost her bid for mayor last year, announced that she will run Thursday.

Former Santa Monica mayor Bobby Shriver and former State legislator Sheila Kuehl, both of whom are locked in a heated race to replace 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky when he terms out this year, denied that they were interested in running for the Congressional seat.

“Congress looks to me like a very frustrating place nowadays,” Kuehl told The Lookout Thursday, adding that she is committed to the Supervisor race.

“I think it’s a great loss to our whole area not to have Henry in Congress,” she said, applauding his work on healthcare.

Waxman himself, in an official statement, commented on congressional gridlock, though he emphasized that it wasn’t why he was leaving.

Political leaders all over the country celebrated him as a staunch champion of liberal causes, from challenging the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries to expanding environmental protections and healthcare coverage.

On the local level, community leaders who worked with him over the years lauded his track record as an accessible and responsive representative.

Since he was first elected to the Congress from the State legislature in 1974, Waxman has represented the Westside, including Santa Monica.

“You couldn’t ask for a better representative in terms of someone who will go to bat and stand up for the City of Santa Monica and the people of Santa Monica,” Mayor Pam O’Connor said.

Deputy City Manager Kate Vernez said, “Congressman Waxman has really been a champion for Santa Monica.”

Vernez lauded his work addressing homelessness, facilitating the growth of Los Angeles’ light rail and subway network and supporting the environment.

Waxman worked to secure $6 million in federal funding to help stabilize the Palisades Bluffs, Verenez said. And he was instrumental in the City’s lawsuit against several major oil companies who were found to be inadvertently polluting the area’s water supply.

He also helped fund affordable housing projects in the city, including the 62-unit Menorah Housing project for seniors which opened in 2002.

Affordable housing development is one tool policy makers use to prevent homelessness among vulnerable people like the poor and the elderly.

Shriver, who became a staunch advocate for the homeless during his eight years on the City Council, applauded Waxman’s record and specifically pointed to his recent efforts to build housing on the Veteran Administration’s (VA) land in Westwood.

“He's working hard and battling the VA bureaucracy,” said Shriver. “I believe that he will win that fight before he leaves office.”

During the 2012 election, Waxman was nearly unseated by independent candidate Bill Bloomfield, a former Republican from Manhattan Beach.

While campaigning against Waxman, Bloomfield had made much of what he considered the Congressman’s lack of commitment to making the VA build housing for the vets on its 387-acre West L.A. property.

Since then, the VA has begun a $20 million renovation of a 55-unit supportive housing complex. (“VA Starts Long-Awaited Renovation of Housing Facility,” January 28, 2013)

Waxman “has stepped up and been working hard on the housing at the VA,” Shriver said.

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who represented the City’s western neighborhoods for eight years, called Waxman an “unflappable super progressive.”

Both stalwart liberal Democrats, Rosendahl and Waxman found themselves on the same side of most issues. But they would occasionally butt heads over the future of Santa Monica Airport, which Rosendahl has wanted closed for years.

While Waxman has advocated for more safety measures at the airport, he has stopped short of calling for closure, waiting, he says, to hear what his constituents want for the airport’s future.

Recently, Waxman had begun pressuring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to sit down with residents before the 2015 expiration of an agreement that, opponents hope, will give the City of Santa Monica the ability to close the airport. (“Congressman Wants FAA Forum on Santa Monica Airport's Future,” July 18, 2013)

“It has been an extraordinary experience,” Waxman said in an official statement. “The House is a remarkable institution and it is an honor to have a chance -- every day -- to make a difference in the lives of my constituents and families across our country.”

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