Republican Mattie Fein Likely to Challenge to Jane Harman

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Sep 24, 2009 3:06 PM
Mattie Fein (Steve Cohn/Steve Cohn Photography)

In 1994, 'Blue Dog' Democratic Rep. Jane Harman won re-election to her 36th district seat in California by a mere 812 votes.  As Republicans seek to turn 2010 into a similarly big year, Harmon may once again face a formidable challenge. 

Republican Mattie Fein, a political consultant and wife of prominent conservative lawyer Bruce Fein, has launched an exploratory committee to consider challenging Harman.  And while national Republicans are waiting to see what kind of organization she can build, there is some excitement about the possibility of running a credible and well-connected female candidate against Harman.  This is a point that does not escape Fein.
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One presumable reason a female Republican might fare better than previous male candidates is that she might feel less inhibited about aggressively attacking Harman.  "My grandmother used to say, 'look, sometimes in life -- you can't always be a lady in a streetfight'," Fein told me during a telephone interview. 

"I think you'd have two feisty, demonstrative women that will probably make this one of the most exciting races in the country," Fein added.

While Harman is a member of the 'Blue Dog' coalition of 'moderate' Democrats, her website biography says,

"Her life-long commitment to progressive issues is reflected in her record on a woman's right to choose, on issues of interest to the gay and lesbian community, seniors and veterans, and has earned her top ratings from advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, and the California League of Conservation Voters."

With Democrats being pressured by fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi to support liberal policies such as ObamaCare, it is not surprising that Harman -- who has previously received primary challenges from the left -- has increasingly embraced the liberal agenda. 

"I think Jane is moving further to the left," Fein tells me. 

While Harman is not considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats in Congress this year, Republicans believe there is a chance for something big happen in 2010 -- and they want to be prepared.  As such, Republican leaders I have spoken to tell me they are focused on ensuring there are "enough ships in the water." 

Essentially, this means fielding quality candidates in hundreds of races, as opposed to focusing solely on a small hand-full of "targeted" races. 

What is more, Republicans believe that by challenging committee chairmen (such as Harman), they will force Democrats to spend resources that they might otherwise use elsewhere.

With Democrats already worried about defending numerous seats around the nation, Fein's likely entry into this race provides them with one additional thing to worry about.  Speculation is Fein may make it official in the next week or so.