Rep. Jane Harman Likely to Resign from Congress

Feb 7, 2011 12:53pm

ABC’s Amy Walter, Matthew Jaffe and Z. Byron Wolf report:

There is a surprising development in Congress today. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., is likely to announce she will resign from office.

Harman’s likely departure was first reported by NBC News, which also reported she would leave Congress to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

No formal announcement has been made by Harman’s office, but her impending likely resignation was confirmed to ABC by Democratic sources on Capitol Hill.

The Woodrow Wilson Center Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday morning to make a decision on the new president. The board is set to make a formal announcement after the meeting, a spokesman for the center told ABC News.

The LA Times published parts of an email that Harman was apparently planning to send to supporters announcing the resignation.

What is not yet clear is when her resignation will take effect. The email printed in the LA Times suggested she would stay for several weeks. Complicating the resignation will be redistricting. Harman’s district in Southern California is a safe Democratic seat in the Los Angeles area. But it was once a very competitive.

First elected in 1992, Harman served until 1998, when she left Congress for a failed bid to become California’s governor. She lost the Democratic primary to then-Lt. Governor Gray Davis. Harman returned to Congress, defeating the Republican who replaced her, in 2000. Harman is a moderate Democrat and member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition and is relatively hawkish on defense issues. She is a former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. She is also one of the richest members of Congress. Her husband Sidney Harman founded the audio company Harman/Kardon and last year bought Newsweek Magazine.

Democratic strategists do not think the seat will become any more competitive in a special election. Harman won by 25 percent last November and President Obama got more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008. But, its boundaries will most certainly be affected by redistricting in 2012. California’s House districts will be redrawn for the first time this year by a new bipartisan commission.

This means a candidate could easily win a special election in 2011 and then go on to face a very different electorate under new district lines in 2012.

Update at 2:25pm ET:

Below is the text of the email Harman supporters Monday. It confirms that she may get and would take the Wilson Center job, but suggests notghing is yet set in stone.

Earlier today, I filed paperwork notifying the House of Representatives that I am in discussions to succeed former Rep. Lee Hamilton as President and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  I send this note because a decision is imminent and I wanted you to hear the news from me first.

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.  But shaping and leading the Wilson Center is a thrilling new challenge.

I have always believed that the best solutions to tough problems require a bipartisan approach, and bipartisanship is the Center’s “brand.”  Serving at its helm provides unique opportunities to involve the House and Senate, top experts, and world leaders in “great debates” about the most pressing foreign and domestic policy matters.

Should this opportunity come to pass, I would be required to resign my seat.  But please know that I would remain in Congress for some weeks and do everything possible to ensure an orderly transition to whomever is elected to succeed me.  Sidney and I will always retain our residence in Venice, be home frequently, and stay engaged at USC and active in the community.

You have elected me to nine terms in Congress – an honor without equal.  I hope you understand how truly grateful I am for your friendship and support.

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