NPR logo California's Hahn, Huey Congress Race Watched For 2012 Clues

California's Hahn, Huey Congress Race Watched For 2012 Clues

Janice Hahn. Reed Saxon/AP hide caption

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Reed Saxon/AP

Janice Hahn.

Reed Saxon/AP

The latest in a congressional special election being watched to divine how the 2012 U.S. House races might play out was in California Tuesday between Democrat Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles councilwoman, and Craig Huey, a Republican businessman.

The contest to fill the seat vacated by Jane Harman, the Democrat who left Congress earlier this year to run a think tank, drew national attention partly not just as a potential bellwether but for more dubious reasons. For instance, it spurred one of the uglier ads of recent memory.

The ad by Hahn's opponents riffed off a 2006 Fox 11 news report disputed by her campaign that she used taxpayer money to pay street gang members to keep the peace.

A poll by DailyKos, the liberal website, had Hahn leading Huey by 8 percentage points, though the margin of error in the poll meant her lead could be half that, suggesting the race could be far closer than many had thought it would be.

As the Los Angeles Daily News reported, the turnout for the special election is expected to be light:

Both campaigns said they expect voter turnout below 20 percent and hope to win by getting their base out to the polling stations.

Like Kathy Hochul, the Democrat who won New York's 26th CD that had long been filled by Republicans, Hahn has tried to link her Republican opponent to the Washington Republican efforts to restrain entitlement spending, like Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare to significant degrees.

Republicans, meanwhile, hope Huey can return the favor and win a seat in a district where Democrats hold a double-digit registration advantage over Republicans.

Huey, with the backing of the Tea Party movement, has aligned himself with Washington Republicans, supporting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and vowing to never vote to raise taxes.

The end of the campaign saw a couple of unexpected developments. On Monday, Hahn's mother died suddenly at age 86. Besides the councilwoman, the late Ramona Hahn was also mother to James Hahn, a former Los Angeles mayor.

Then, over the weekend, Huey was served with legal papers for alleged failure to pay child support.

The event was videotaped which caused some in Huey's camp to suspect a political dirty trick.