For a short time late Tuesday night - well before all the votes had been counted - Bill Bloomfield said he thought he might score an improbable upset.
As an independent candidate, Bloomfield spent more than $6 million of his own money in hopes of defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Henry Waxman, and data from early-reporting precincts in the 33rd Congressional District showed him leading slightly.
But by early morning, Waxman had pulled way, drawing 53.7 percent of the vote to Bloomfield's 46.3 percent. It was the closest general election margin ever for Waxman, first elected to Congress in 1974 during a post-Watergate Democratic wave.
"I could have done without the roller-coaster ride last night," Bloomfield said Wednesday. "I had a bunch of people calling me congressman."
Many political analysts suggested before Tuesday that Bloomfield had little chance to win - in part because the district's metrics did not favor him. Democrats own a 44 to 28 percent voter registration advantage over Republicans in the newly drawn 33rd District, which starts in Malibu, runs east into parts of West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and hugs the coast through the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
But Waxman has typically represented West Los Angeles and was running in the South Bay for the first time. That opened an opportunity for Bloomfield, who won more votes than Waxman in Torrance, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach.
Still, Bloomfield, who switched his registration from Republican to independent in March 2011, said he will consider his campaign a victory if Waxman shifts, even slightly, to the center.
Bloomfield sought to portray his opponent as a partisan Democrat, often citing Waxman's proclivity toward voting with his party. According to the Washington Post, Waxman votes with Democrats more than 95 percent of the time.
The question now is what might Bloomfield do next. He said he would consider running again for federal or state office and said he is concerned about the overwhelming majorities Democrats now have in California state government. He noted that an internal campaign poll taken in late October showed him with strong ratings in the 33rd Congressional District - 39 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of him, with 17 percent unfavorable and 30 percent having no opinion.
Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican campaign consultant in Los Angeles, said Bloomfield could have won had he run for the South Bay's 66th state Assembly seat rather than Congress. Hoffenblum called the losing Republican candidate, Craig Huey, too conservative to run a credible campaign.
But Bloomfield, a resident of Manhattan Beach, said he never seriously considered running against anyone other than Waxman.
"Frankly the fact that we were taking on a giant was an encouraging factor not a discouraging one," he said. "I believed that the race itself would be newsworthy even if we were not successful because of who we took on."
Waxman, who declined to comment for this story, returns to Washington as Congress seeks to avoid the fiscal cliff - a sharp series of tax increases and spending decreases that could cripple the economy.
Bloomfield said he hopes Waxman will support the Bowles-Simpson Commission, a bipartisan group that advocates a gradual cut in spending combined with modest tax increases. At the least, Bloomfield said he wants Waxman to be more willing to work with Republicans, who generally want sharper reductions in government spending than Democrats.
"If he truly is willing to sit down with the other side and basically say, `We've got to come up with a solution,' that's great," he said. "I can take that to my grave."
In the immediate future, Bloomfield said he will continue to advocate for electing more moderates and independents to state houses and Congress.
As for regrets, Bloomfield said he has at least one. Waxman repeatedly hit him for leaving the Republican Party about a year before he began running for Congress. But Bloomfield said he had considered himself an independent before then.
"It would have been better if my reregistration had happened much earlier than March 2011," he said. "I think that left us vulnerable to some people asking about the timing."
Hoffenblum said voters may hear from Bloomfield once again, but noted it is difficult for an independent - even a well-financed one - to remain relevant in a political system dominated by the two major parties.
But he said he credits Bloomfield for trying to defeat one of the giants of California politics.
"He tried something different, created a stir, took it seriously and did a very good job," Hoffenblum said.
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