If she wins her June 2016 election, Hahn will join another Democrat who put in years and years in D.C. only to leave for the same board. President Obama’s former labor secretary—and a former congresswoman herself—Hilda Solis left her cabinet post in 2013, before being elected to the board last June.
So what gives? For starters, there’s the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.
“As a form of government that’s naturally nonpartisan, I find local government more workable,” Hahn said in a statement announcing her plans. “It’s just easier to build consensus and get things done because there’s no real partisan bickering.”
But the board is also incredibly—and uniquely—powerful: there’s a reason why, long ago, its five members earned the nickname “the five little kings.”
As we reported from Solis’s victory party in June, the county is home to 10 million people, more than the populations of 43 states. Evenly split, that means each supervisor represents 2 million people or nearly three times the numbers represented by Solis and Hahn while they were in Congress. And the board oversees a $26 billion budget, which ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack of states.
But it’s not just the budget and constituents that make the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors such a powerful institution, as we noted in June:
“They wield tremendous influence and much of that influence is wielded behind the scenes,” says Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola University’s law school in Los Angeles and the vice president of the city’s ethics commission.The board is involved in every branch of government, exercising legislative, executive and quasi-judicial powers. The supervisors approve appointments and administer services such as law enforcement, health and welfare programs and, for the roughly one million people living in unincorporated areas throughout the county, supervisors also act as the mayor and city council.
Hahn may be stepping down in order to “get things done,” but if she wins like Solis, she’ll just be swapping one powerful perch for another.