Prosecutor Elan Carr received the most votes Tuesday in the crowded race to succeed Congressman Henry Waxman, but the big question now is whether the Republican can find a path to victory in a district that leans left.
Carr received 21.5 percent of the vote in the primary, which means he will be in the November runoff with Democrat Ted Lieu, who finished second with 19 percent. One reason for Carr's first place finish may have been the split vote among Democrats, who also turned out for candidates Wendy Greuel and Matt Miller. Independent candidate Marianne Williamson also pulled votes that ordinarily would have leaned Democrat.
Two years ago, Waxman faced a tough reelection campaign against Bill Bloomfield, an independent who finished just eight points behind the longtime congressman. Still, it will likely be a tough fight for Carr.
"If Ted Lieu makes no mistakes, runs a conventional race, he should be able to win," said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, in an appearance on KPCC's AirTalk.
"The only thing that Elan Carr has [is] ... the Jewish vote is very strong in that area. If he can get mostly Democratic Jews to cross over and vote for him, he can make it competitive."
Carr heads the national Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, and his campaign website includes a picture of the Iraq War veteran lighting a menorah during religious services in the former presidential palace of Saddam Hussein.
A columnist for the Jewish Journal noted recently that Carr speaks fluent Hebrew and that his family belongs to several Westside synagogues. David Suisa wrote Carr is "confident that his established pro-Israel credentials will win him many Jewish votes and sees that issue as a potential tiebreaker in a future runoff."
Carr, who calls himself a moderate on all issues, told KPCC's AirTalk his campaign will focus on education, jobs and public safety. He attributed his win to voters' frustration over a lack of compromise at the state and national level.
"I think it's disenchantment with the lack of compromise, the dysfunction in Washington and Sacramento, and there's plenty of blame to go around," Carr said. "The country is not being moved forward and any legislative body where compromise is considered a dirty word has fallen into dysfunction — and that's where we are today."
The runoff between Carr and Lieu will be on Nov. 4.