Rep. Harman announces new position with Washington think tank, leaving Congress

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

Congresswoman Jane Harman announces she's leaving politics

Congresswoman Jane Harman spoke with reporters today – one day after she told constituents that she’s leaving Congress at the end of the month to head up the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The Democrat from El Segundo says the Wilson Center approached her in mid-December. Harman says she was conflicted for a month. "However, this is a challenge I could not resist."

Harman says she wants to create a “safe political space” at the Wilson Center to "create great debates around a few topics that, at least at the moment I would say, Congress is not as able to debate in as much depth with as much nuance."

Harman touts her strong alliances in Congress over the years with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. "I haven’t always done the most popular thing, at least if you listen to some parts of my party," she says, "but I have tried to be centered, principled, and pragmatic and I’m quite proud of the record that I have achieved in the Congress. I’ve been able to get legislation passed when I was in the majority and when I was in the minority."

Harman made her congressional reputation on security issues – and she’ll keep that focus at the Wilson Center. She says she might “play some role” in choosing her successor. "It won’t be my call what happens. Maybe everyone will run or maybe the minority leader and some of the senior Democrats from California will try to winnow that list a bit."
Harman called the opportunity to join the Washington, DC-based Wilson Center an “unequaled next chapter” in her life.

Candidates are lining up for Harman’s soon-to-be vacant Congressional district seat. The 36th runs from San Pedro to Venice. The governor will call a special election, expected to be in June.

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