Rep. Henry Waxman’s Southern California district includes many celebrity-rich areas — Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Malibu. Now, the longest-serving Jewish member of Congress is getting a celebrity challenger: Marianne Williamson, whose spiritual and self-help books have repeatedly topped the New York Times best-seller list.
Waxman, a liberal leader on health, environmental and financial issues in Congress, had a surprisingly tough reelection battle in 2012. Running in a radically re-drawn district, the Democrat prevailed last year over a self-financed challenger with only 54 percent of the vote. This was a somewhat stunning outcome for a lawmaker who had won all his prior congressional races back to 1974 with upwards of 60 percent — and often more than 70 percent — of the vote. (Waxman’s longtime local political partner, Rep. Howard Berman, went down to defeat in a redistricting-fueled battle that same cycle.)
Williamson announced her candidacy Sunday in Beverly Hills, where she said that Congress needed a “holistic paradigm.” This is not her first foray into civic affairs: She founded Project Angel Food, which delivers meals to home-bound AIDS sufferers, and co-founded the Peace Alliance, which pushes for the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace. She also wrote a politically oriented book, “Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voices as Spiritual Citizens.”
So far, the campaign rhetoric has been California mellow. Williamson, on her campaign website, praises Waxman’s record on the environment and banking issues. “Mr. Waxman has been a good Congressman for 38 years, and I believe he deserves appreciation and respect,” she states. “But a new conversation is required now, and the political status quo — even the best of it — cannot provide that.”
A third candidate in the race has also been talking nice. On his campaign website, television producer Brent Roske warmly welcomed Williamson to the race, saying that he has enjoyed her books. Roske had previously proposed that if he wins the race, he would like to share the job with Waxman, splitting the pay and responsibilities so that the veteran congressman could stay on for a bit to mentor him.
Waxman re-paid the niceness to Roskes, telling Roll Call this summer: “I appreciate his kind words about my work in Congress. I also appreciate Mr. Roske’s novel proposal and will think about it some more, but I suspect there would be workability issues.”
Williamson, for her part, has already found a sympathetic audience among fellow famous folks. Alanis Morissette performed at the event announcing her candidacy. Famed drag performer RuPaul recently drove around with Williamson on his Web show and talked with her about her political plans. And comedian Sarah Silverman is giving Williamson some Twitter love:
A brilliant thinker in congress? Yes please! http://t.co/wSOzg873O4
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) October 24, 2013