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The surprising flash point of this weekend's state Democratic Party convention was the race in the 36th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, is fighting off an insurgent campaign by Democratic challenger Marcy Winograd.

The fireworks began Saturday afternoon when Harman was speaking to the party's progressive caucus, only to be dragged into a debate with Winograd, who is the president of the Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles. Liberal activists/writers Jim Hightower and Norman Solomon listened from the stage.

According to an observer, Harman was booed and heckled by the hostile caucus audience, which was unhappy with her vote authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq and some of her pro-Israel stands.

Winograd joined in the ridicule, questioning Harman's Democratic credentials. Harman warned the progressives that they were pigeonholing themselves.

Tensions boiled over this morning after Winograd had collected enough signatures to overturn the vote of the district's delegates to endorse Harman, throwing the matter to a debate by the general session.

Harman and Winograd received four minutes each to debate, and Winograd and her supporters launched into Harman again while hundreds of delegates listened in, observers said. Harman held fire, but her supporters defended the seven-term congresswoman.

Harman ultimately won the California Democratic Party's endorsement. The brouhaha made such a splash that speakers hours later took pains to point out that Harman and Winograd supporters could indeed get along.

Among the other contested endorsements, Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento beat out Assemblyman Hector de la Torre of South Gate for insurance commissioner.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who lobbied hard at the convention, didn't receive the required 60 percent endorsement committee vote to win the nod for lieutenant governor. He won 52 percent of the vote while rival Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn won 42.6 percent.

The attorney general candidates didn't seek the party's endorsement.


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