Rep. Jane Harman, a leading congressional voice on national security and ranking Democrat on a key House intelligence panel, told constituents on Monday she would resign her seat if named to head a Washington think tank.
Harman, serving her ninth term representing California’s 36th district, including an area of west Los Angeles, said she was in discussions to succeed former Congressman Lee Hamilton as president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Harman, 65, said in an email to constituents that she has filed paperwork informing the U.S. House of Representatives and a “decision is imminent.”
“This is an excruciating decision because the distinction of representing the smartest constituents on Earth will never be surpassed — nor will my relationships with my exceptional staff and colleagues in Congress,” Harman said in her email.
The think tank’s board of trustees meets Tuesday to formally decide on the new president to replace Hamilton, a former Indiana Democrat who chaired the House Committee on International Relations and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who stepped down at the end of November.
Word of Harman’s possible exit comes after U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, and independent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who often votes with Democrats, announced they would not seek reelection in 2012.
Harman’s district, whose voters have in recent history voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, is considered a safe seat for her party despite the Republicans’ 2010 election sweep that gave them control of the House.
Harman is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats with moderate to conservative views, and she has often taken a more hawkish position on national security matters than the mainstream of her party.
Her husband, businessman Sidney Harman, bought debt-laden Newsweek magazine for $1 last year, and she was ranked by the Center for Responsive Politics as the second-richest member of Congress with personal wealth estimated at $293 million.
Harman, first elected to Congress in 1993, is the ranking Democrat of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. She also was the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for four years.
If her seat were vacated, California Governor Jerry Brown would have 14 calendar days to call a special election, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state’s said.
The election would be the first major test of new open primary rules approved by California voters last year, in which the top two vote-getters of a single primary race advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
Two California politicians, both Democrats, quickly showed their interest in Harman’s seat. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she would run for the seat, and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said via Twitter that she was giving “very serious thought” to running.
In her e-mail to constituents, Harman said that she would remain in Congress for “some weeks and do everything possible to ensure an orderly transition” to a successor.
Copyright © 2011 Reuters