LOS ANGELES — Republican businessman Craig Huey on Thursday beat California Secretary of State Debra Bowen in a congressional race and will square off against Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn in a July runoff congressional race.
The win for Huey, a political newcomer with tea party backing, confounded expectations the runoff would be between Democrats Bowen and Hahn.
“While they were fighting it out, we were talking to the independents, the Democrats and the Republicans who are so upset about this economy,” Huey said. “The voters are getting it, even in California.”
The closely fought race is for the 36th District, which spans several beach communities, including Venice, in southern Los Angeles County. The seat was vacated when Jane Harman resigned in February to head the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Sixteen candidates had competed in Tuesday’s election, including five Democrats, six Republicans, a Libertarian, one Peace and Freedom candidate, and three candidates with no party affiliation.
With almost all votes tallied, Hahn had 24.6 percent of the vote, Huey had 22.2 percent and Bowen had 21 percent.
Bowen, a 55-year-old former legislator, had the backing of the Sierra Club, the California Nurses Association and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
In a statement, she conceded defeat and thanked supporters. She said that as secretary of state, she had a policy not to endorse candidates.
Hahn, 59, who belongs to a Los Angeles political dynasty, emerged as the establishment favorite and won endorsements from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
The race drew also attention because it was the first time California had used a new open primary system for electing congressional lawmakers where voters, regardless of registration, could select candidates from any party.
Harman resigned after serving eight terms representing the district and was a leading voice for Democrats on intelligence and security issues.
She assumed her late husband’s seat on the board of Newsweek Daily Beast Co. after his death last month at the age of 92.
Sidney Harman bought Newsweek for $1 from The Washington Post Co. last fall and merged it into a joint venture with Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent of the Daily Beast.