Jane Harman is an eight-term member of Congress. Though she has faced primary challenges in the past, she’s fairly entrenched in the district. This year, against progressive anti-war activist Marcy Winograd, she has spent twice as much as her opponent (about 1/3 of her money has come from PACs) and has the name ID and backing from the local establishment that should signal a cruise to victory?

So why is she running negative ads and sending out negative mailers throughout the district? Her most recent one, containing a flotilla of opposition research, including highly some risible charges, gives off nothing so much as fear – fear that voters, in an anti-incumbent mood, may replace her in the June 8 primary with a more progressive choice.

Democrats say the ad makes clear that Harman recognizes the current environment and its pitfalls, even though she beat Winograd by 24 points in 2006 and is a strong favorite this Tuesday [...]

Harman adviser Harvey Englander explained that the ad is merely a response to Winograd’s attacks. “How long do you stand there and get punched before you say, let’s tell the truth?” Englander said. He added that he doesn’t “think the race is close at all.”

There’s no surprise that Harvey Englander, Harman’s campaign manager for this cycle, would go negative to win. He ran the campaign for Proposition 13, the anti-tax measure that basically begun the destruction of California. But there has to be something else behind an incumbent claiming a safe road to re-election to go so deeply negative.

“I think she’s scared,” Winograd, an LAUSD schoolteacher, told FDL News. “I think she understands the environment this year and the way my campaign has gone.” Winograd, who has raised $338,000 this cycle, almost entirely from individuals, has run a grassroots campaign that seeks to capitalize on volunteer energy and a disappointment with Harman’s more moderate stances on national security and the economy. “I blame Harvey Englander for how she’s run her campaign,” Winograd said, “with the phony attacks. He has a long history of this.”

Among the charges in the latest mailer: Winograd missed a local election in 2002 that had Prop. 40 (a coastal protection and clean air measure) on the ballot, so she doesn’t support “protecting our coastline,” according to the mailer. “I authored the ban on offshore drilling and rallied the California Democratic Party to adopt it,” Winograd said, unaware of the details surrounding the missed vote eight years ago. Another charge: Winograd “doesn’t even live” in the Congressional District. That’s not true; she has an apartment in Marina del Rey, and has lived there for over two years. Before that, she lived a couple miles up the road in Santa Monica, not exactly a “different community.” But to illustrate this carpetbagging, the mailer includes where Winograd was born (Beverly Hills) and where she went to college (Berkeley) as examples of her “choosing not to live in the community.” This becomes more outrageous when you consider that Harman spends most of her time in Washington, where her husband lives full-time.

If you only read about this race online, you’d think that the entire election focused on Israel-Palestine policy. That hasn’t been the case locally (I live in the district). Winograd’s campaign has mostly prioritized jobs, green technology and jet traffic at the local Santa Monica airport. In the last week, because of the Gaza flotilla incident, Winograd has spoken out, calling for an end to the blockade and an full investigation (Harman has been more cautious). Winograd was actually asked to join the flotilla to Gaza, but did not do so because of her campaign, sending a campaign T-shirt instead.

If anything, Harman has driven the conversation over Israel, particularly with her negative TV ad and targeted mailer sent to people with Jewish surnames warning of Winograd’s support for a binational state rather than a two-state solution. Winograd’s campaign official website now says she supports whatever solution comes out of peace negotiations with the parties in the Middle East. She recorded a robocall to Jewish voters in the district (around 44,000) to clarify her record. She does personally believe that the hopes for a two-state solution have been dashed by the policies of the Israeli government, particularly the settlements and the blockade of Gaza, and would hope that Palestinians and Israelis could live side-by-side in a state committed to human rights.

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic (also a former IDF member) produced a long interview with Winograd about her views on Israel, where she made for some controversy with this statement:

JG: Let’s talk about what Henry Waxman said about you.

MW: I appreciate Henry Waxman, the fact that he pioneered generics, that he’s concerned about the environment. However, on foreign policy we have strong differences. I would hope that all of our lawmakers would pledge allegiance to this country as the country they represent.

JG: Are you saying Waxman isn’t loyal?

MW: I don’t know. That’s a question you have to ask him.
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JG: Talk about Jane Harman’s motivations. Is she in the same camp?

MW: I think she is a strong Zionist. I think she also profits off of war. She has helped build the aerospace industry’s involvement in U.S. wars. She’s a big supporter of aerospace in its present incarnation. I talk a lot about expanding aerospace into green technology.

Regarding these comments, Winograd framed the Harman case around her celebrated wiretapping scandal. “Why would you agree to help get two analysts accused of spying for Israel off the hook, in exchange for getting help from them to get the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee, unless you were deeply, deeply corrupt, or you had some sort of allegiance to Israel?” She eventually agreed that it was probably the former.

Winograd certainly sees an opportunity in the 36th district, and thinks the negative campaign of Harman is backfiring. “We had many calls to the office,” she said, “people who said that the mailers were the last straw. I had someone tell me ‘that mailer made me put on a button.’ Another man, a political scientist at a local college, came to the office after getting the mailer, saying he was ready to work from now until Election Day. He said, tell me what I can do.”

UPDATE: I meant to add the backstory to the Waxman quote, which is well-described by Ryan Grim. I actually reported on the Waxman fundraising letter at the beginning of the year.