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Beverly Hills GOP

Can Elan Carr actually win Henry Waxman’s seat?

Aug 11, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 45 • By MATTHEW FLEMING
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Carr says education is his primary issue, but he seems most passionate when discussing foreign policy, especially Israel. He has a foreign policy pedigree, from his time in the Army, and from his Iraqi and Israeli heritage. When his mother was 9, she and her brother fled with their mother from Iraq to Israel shortly after the creation of that state, while her father sat in prison. Carr speaks fluent Hebrew and Arabic.

“We can’t protect people here at home unless we exercise leadership overseas,” he says. “We are conducting a foreign policy of such confusion, of such weakness, such lack of relevance to world affairs. Not only are we in greater danger because of it, but Israel is in grievous danger. When America isn’t exerting its influence in the world, things don’t get better.”

He’s running against a strong candidate in Democrat Ted Lieu, who has been in the state senate since 2011, after serving in both the state assembly and Torrance City Council. Lieu was outraising and outspending Carr—until now.

FEC filings from mid-July showed Carr actually beat Lieu both in contributions for the second quarter, $454,874 to $360,239, and cash on hand, $245,822 to $204,438.

But dollars don’t cast ballots on Election Day. Democrats have a substantial advantage in voter registration, 43 percent to 27 percent, and Lieu has greater name identification.

Even so, Carr points to Henry Waxman’s tough road to reelection in 2012 as a reason for optimism. Against the Republican-turned-no-party-preference candidate Bill Bloomfield, Waxman won by only 8 points, 54-46. And that was with Obama at the top of the ticket, who won the district by 24 points.

Carr “has some of the attributes that, in just the right setting, with everything falling just right, someone like that would have a chance,” says Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles.

Sonenshein notes that Carr’s first-place finish in the primary is somewhat misleading, since there were several Democratic candidates splitting the vote—the top four left-leaning candidates together got 61 percent of the vote—and Lieu isn’t seriously flawed in a way that would give an easy opening. Plus, Republicans are not very popular in the district.

“But,” says Sonenshein, “it’s a district with a very strong Jewish population, which leans heavily Democratic. By virtue of being Jewish and also presumably socially moderate enough for the district,” Carr will at least earn consideration from voters. “Without that, I don’t even think he’s in the discussion.”

The seat is likely to remain Democratic, said Sonenshein. The political handicappers, like Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Cook Political Report agree. But there’s still a chance. “It’s a longshot,” says Sonenshein. “But it’s not an impossibility.”

The ever-confident Carr places his odds of victory at over 50 percent: “If we stick to our game plan and campaign as our polls show we need to, and if we have the resources, I’m the favorite candidate.”

Matthew Fleming is a reporter for the Los Angeles Register.

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