Congresswoman Jane Harman announced on Monday that she was stepping down to run the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The California congresswoman told supporters in an e-mail that she would be leaving the House. “I send this note because a decision is imminent and I wanted you to hear the news from me first,” she wrote. “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.”
A moderate “Blue Dog” Democrat, Harman was first elected to Congress in 1992 and served three terms before leaving to run an unsuccessful campaign for governor in California. She returned to the House in 2001 and was her party’s ranking member on the intelligence committee when the Democrats re-took Congress in 2006. Despite her seniority, Harman was not selected to chair the committee by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a damaging story about her was published in Time magazine. According to the article, Harman was the target of a Justice Department investigation into her dealings with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The article went on to say that in return for AIPAC’s support of Harman’s bid for intelligence committee chair she had agreed to lobby the Justice Department on behalf of two of their officials who had been charged with espionage. Harman denied the allegations and was never charged with any wrongdoing.
It was rumored that Harman never forgave Pelosi for not making her intelligence chair and that the two had been engaged in a bitter feud for years. “Because her caucus is in disarray, Nancy Pelosi’s iron grip has forced out one of her long-time adversaries,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Joanna Burgos said in a statement. “Jane Harman’s 16 years in Congress included an ethics investigation, and her exit is another gain for Pelosi’s efforts to further strengthen her party’s job-destroying agenda. Nancy Pelosi will now undoubtedly try to seize this opportunity and install her own hand-picked candidate in this deep blue district in her home state.”
A special election to fill the seat is expected in May or June.