BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) --There's a crowded field of candidates hoping to replace Congressman Henry Waxman, who is retiring from his 33rd District seat.
Seventeen names will appear on next month's ballot, plus a write-in candidate. As many candidates as that is, one political expert is surprised there aren't even more.
Most of the candidates hoping to succeed Representative Waxman posed for a group photo before they took part in a forum held at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills on May 14.
Waxman decided to step down after 40 years in Congress, representing parts of the Westside, South Bay and the San Fernando Valley, leaving his imprint on major health and environmental issues.
Big shoes to fill, according to Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.
"The 33rd Congressional District is losing perhaps the most effective member of the House of Representatives -- I am quite serious about this -- in the last 50 years in Henry Waxman," said Sonenshein.
Only two of the 18 candidates have held office.
"It's not only about civil rights, but it's about our environment and our future," said Democrat Wendy Greuel, former L.A. city controller and councilwoman.
"I have authored significant legislation or co-authored legislation that has benefitted tens of millions of Californians," said state senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).
Other contenders have measurable support and financing.
"The reason I think democracy is important is because it is a container for those angels of our better nature," said author-lecturer Marianne Williamson, who is running as an independent.
"I'm the only candidate who served in a senior economic policy role in the Clinton White House," said Democrat Matt Miller, a radio host and policy analyst.
Democrat David Kanuth, an entrepreneur and defense lawyer, is getting name recognition through advertising. "We want to fix what's broken in Washington," said Kanuth.
Sonenshein says 33rd District voters will most likely elect a Democrat who will join the House of Representatives in the minority party.
"Given that most offices in California are term-limited, and the House of Representatives is not term-limited, when a seat like this opens up, it is a tremendous opportunity and people will flock to run," said Sonenshein.
Other Democrats in the race:
and James Graf, who was absent from the forum.
Republicans include Elan Carr, Lily Gilani and Kevin Mottus.
There is also Independent Tom Fox, Libertarian Mark Matthew Herd and write-in Theo Milonopoulos. Also absent was the Green Party's Michael Ian Sachs.
Sonenshein says it's OK to run in a crowded field.
"Why not? This essentially is an opportunity to get your name out, have a little fun, try out what it's like to run for office. Sometimes the person who wins office later is the person who met people when they ran the first time," said Sonenshein.
Under new election laws, two candidates will advance to the November runoff, even if one wins a majority vote. So the battle for the 33rd is not so much who comes in first, but who comes in second place.