Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

A crowded ballot makes for crowded debates in Westside Congressional race

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) is retiring after four decades in Congress.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) is retiring after four decades in Congress.

In a sea of candidates, how can one politician stand out from the crowd? The solution: debates and commercials — both of which voters got to see this weekend in the race to fill Congressman Henry Waxman's Westside seat. 

Waxman is retiring after four decades in office and there are 17 candidates trying to succeed him. A dozen of them participated in a debate Saturday sponsored by The Young Turks online news network. Questions ranged from transportation in Los Angeles to intervention in Iran. 

Author and lecturer Marianne Williamson, who is running without a party designation, said if she is elected, her top priority would be to reduce the influence of money in politics. 

"My number one priority is getting the money out of politics," she said. "To me, that is the cancer that’s eating our democracy. It is the issue that underlies all the others." Williamson, who has a global following, is not accepting donations from political action committees.

Deputy district attorney and Republican Elan Carr said he would focus on education and keeping young adults out of gangs. 

“Education is my top priority," Carr said. "Look, we have broken schools and, as a gang prosecutor, I am neck-deep in human ruin every single day." 

Republican Kevin Mottus said he would focus on two unusual issues — building double-decker freeways and reintroducing a House bill to exam the impact of  electromagnetic fields from cell phones. 

“No one wants to talk about health effects associated with wireless, but I’m going to talk about it," Mottus said. 

And when it came to transportation, attorney and former diplomat Barbara Mulvaney, a Democrat, made a comparison to show just how bad traffic can be in Los Angeles. 

“When I lived in Baghdad, I actually walked from my apartment to the building and that was my commute, so I was rather spoiled,” she said. (That may be the first time anyone has ever been "spoiled" in Iraq.)

Noticeably absent from the debate were state Sen. Ted Lieu and former L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel, both Democrats. However, on Monday, Lieu released an ad that focuses on spying by the National Security Administration. 

Greuel, who released her first TV ad last week,  has been endorsed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and he will host a fundraiser for her next week, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The next forum in the congressional race will be held Wednesday at Temple Emanuel from 6 to 8 p.m. Assuming no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to the November runoff.