By DANIEL TAUB
Most L.A. congressional races are runaways but not in the 36th District, which includes working-class San Pedro, wealthy Palos Verdes, and such key assets as LAX and the Port of Los Angeles.
The race pits Democrat Janice Hahn, daughter of late county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and Assemblyman Steve Kuykendall, R-Rancho Palos Verdes, for the seat given up by U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Torrance, when she made an unsuccessful run for governor earlier this year.
Harman had a hard time holding onto the office over the six years she represented the district, which is 42 percent Democratic and 41 percent Republican.
"That was a tough district for Jane throughout her whole time in the House," said Steve Grossman, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "It's obviously a very difficult seat for Democrats."
Reflecting the district's political makeup, both Hahn and Kuykendall lean toward the center, and their stances on business issues are similar. Both want to encourage increased trade, which benefits the port-oriented district. Both disagree with the decision to keep China Ocean Shipping Co. from leasing the former Long Beach Naval Station. And both support increased military spending, which would benefit the aerospace and defense companies that still have a large presence in the South Bay.
"I feel it is something we should invest in raising the defense budget, particularly in this age of terrorism," Hahn said.
Kuykendall also cited the increased threat of terrorism as a reason to increase the nation's defense budget.
"We've cut our defense budget for 14 years," he said. "I think we're at the point where we need to start heading in the other direction."
With their similar views and similar levels of name recognition Kuykendall from his four years in the Assembly, and Hahn from her famous father analysts say it's hard to predict an outcome.
"Republicans are expected to win that one back, but Janice Hahn is putting up a heck of a fight," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican consultant. "It would be a mild upset if she won, but would not be out of reach."
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