Kevin Feldman hopes that the newly drawn 30th Congressional District gives him a chance. His opponent in the March 5 Democratic primary is Rep. Henry Waxman, a popular 28-year veteran who has often run unopposed.
With redistricting, however, Waxman's district now includes many areas that he has never represented, and Feldman hopes that gives him a chance. "Waxman is a household word on the Westside," he acknowledged. But the new 30th District, which runs from Malibu to Santa Monica and now north into Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village, includes many voters previously represented by Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat.
Like Sherman, 33-year-old Feldman is a former financial services professional, having left his position as a vice president of banking services at Charles Schwab to run for office. Feldman is using his experience in business as the centerpiece of his campaign, advocating a market- forces approach to problems in government.
In the heavily Jewish district, which includes Beverly Hills, Westwood and West Hollywood, Feldman is not running against his opponent's record on Jewish issues. In addition to Waxman's important legislation on health care and environmental issues, the legislator has been among Congress' most effective supporters of Israel and recently wrote an article for The Journal advocating better oversight of Holocaust-era insurance claims.
"Waxman has a fantastic record with regard to issues important to the Jewish community," admitted Feldman, adding, "I feel very connected to the Jewish community. Because I'm openly gay as well, I've chosen to focus my energies on that community. There's only so many hours in the day."
Feldman serves on the board of Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center a San Francisco-based advocacy and support organization for gay youth.
Beyond community affiliations, Feldman is focusing his campaign on using business tactics to solve government problems -- particularly with the economic downturn -- and transportation and education issues. He supports multiple experiments in educational reform, trying many approaches and implementing what works while discarding what does not.
"Business people are much more tolerant of failure," he said. Feldman also wants to bring the Metro Rail into West Los Angeles and the West Valley.
When the incumbent and challenger -- both Jewish -- met for a candidates' forum at the Westlake Village-Thousand Oaks Chamber of Commerce, Waxman dismissed Feldman's market-based strategies as too simplistic: "I wish we could let the market solve everything. I like the market," he said, "but I've been [in Congress] a while, and these issues are complicated. Glib answers don't work."
Feldman responded, saying, "I don't think the problems of government are any more complicated than the problems of big businesses like IBM or Charles Schwab." However, he said he is pleased to have Waxman responding to his challenge.
"We started as a grass-roots campaign, now we have 300 volunteers," Feldman said, noting that "just in the last few weeks, Waxman started accepting invitations" to discuss issues at candidates forums.
On March 5, the outcome of Feldman's efforts to attract enough votes from both Waxman's and Sherman's constituents to win the primary will be decided.