CA-33: Carr, Lieu Shine at Forum; Williamson Riles 'Em Up

Republican Elan Carr (left) and Democrat Ted Lieu (right) stood out at Sunday's candidate forum in California's 33rd congressional district, where 18 candidates are vying to replace retiring Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman. Independent candidate Marianne Williamson provided the most rousing performance, however, as she exhorted voters to support her effort to push big money out of politics and "disrupt the status quo."

Lieu, who currently serves in the California State Senate and won the official endorsement of the Democratic Party, came across as the most polished of the 17 candidates at Brentwood's University Synagogue. He referred often to his experience in securing funding for local projects such as public transportation, and spoke about his support for comprehensive immigration reform, grounding his views in his own family's experiences.

Carr--who, like Lieu, cited his service in the armed forces--repeated two themes throughout the afternoon: crime and education. He promised to work across the aisle and to buck his own party's leadership to do so. He was forceful in his presentation, his training as a city prosecutor showing through his remarks, though he was sure to mention--for the largely liberal audience--his focus on prosecuting animal cruelty crimes.

Yet it was Williamson who left the strongest mark. Her campaign organized the largest support contingent, with dozens of volunteers sitting throughout the audience in campaign t-shirts, cheering loudly every time she spoke. Many candidates spoke of the need to change Washington, especially in the area of campaign finance, but it was Williamson who expressed those sentiments most sharply and with greatest determination.

Of all the candidates, Lieu seems most comfortable in the role of political representative, albeit following a well-trodden path of party orthodoxy. His challenge will be overcoming the other nine Democrats in the "jungle" primary, and distinguishing himself from establishment fixtures like Wendy Greuel, or newcomers like fundraising prodigy David Klamath. If all split the vote, it is possible no Democrat will survive the primary.

Carr has a genuine shot of making the runoff. He has adopted a unique strategy: whereas most others are focusing on appealing to their respective party bases, as in a traditional primary Carr is reaching out to Democrats and moderates as well as Republicans, knowing he has a chance to harness their support. His likeliest path to victory, however, requires him to energize Republicans, and split his opponents' vote. 


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