Poll: In Race To Replace Harman, Progressives Say They Have The Edge


A new poll from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee shows voters in the southern California district soon to be vacated by Rep. Jane Harman (D) are ready to support a candidate who’s going to protect traditional entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

PCCC is national political group best known for its efforts to push the Democratic Party and its leaders to the left on issues like entitlements, taxes and military spending.

Harman is leaving Congress later this month to take a job leading a Washington think tank. Her departure will trigger a special election in the Los Angeles district Harman represents.

Several Democratic candidates have emerged to take Harman’s seat, but two well-known candidates are seen as the front-runners: California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn. The PCCC poll shows Bowen ahead by four points, but also includes a “significant undecided” vote that PCCC says suggests the race is “wide open.”Other numbers from the poll, obtained exclusively by TPM, suggest that whichever candidate can make clear her support for the nation’s entitlement programs may have the upper hand.

The poll shows 70% of voters in the district say it’s “more important to prevent Social Security from being cut” than it is to “cut Social Security to reduce deficit,” which just 22% of the respondents support.

It’s a similar story for Medicare. Sixty-four percent of voters surveyed said it was more important to keep the program intact than cut it as part of a plan to reduce the budget deficit. Only 22% said they’d put the deficit ahead of Medicare.

That squares with national numbers showing most Americans want the nation’s major entitlement programs left untouched by cut-happy politicians.

That’s not to say the voters in Harman’s don’t favor making cuts to reduce the deficit — they just prefer those cuts come from the massive defense budget. Fifty-nine percent in the PCCC poll said it’s more important to cut the money spent on defense to reduce the deficit than it is to protect defense spending from cuts.

Plenty of politicians these days are making a name for themselves but jumping on the third rails of Social Security and Medicare and calling for changes to the programs in the name of balancing the federal budget.

PCCC’s Adam Green says the reticence to sign on to such schemes from voters in Harman’s district shows the seat is ripe for a progressive pickup. The PCCC has not yet endorsed in the race and is currently weighing its options. It seems clear that whichever candidate the group chooses will need to be a strong advocate for Social Security and Medicare, however.

“Like most Americans, voters in this district want a bold progressive fighter. They want someone who will boldly challenge the false equivalency that says overwhelmingly-popular programs like Social Security and Medicare must be on the chopping block along with less popular things like military spending,” Green said. “The candidate who mounts the most passionate defense of Social Security and Medicare will have an advantage in this neck-and-neck race.”

Pollster PPP (D) conducted the survey of 890 special election voters in CA-36 on Feb. 17-18. The margin of error is 3.3%.