Sandra Fluke not running for Congress after all. Wise move?

Sandra Fluke gained celebrity as a women's rights activist after becoming the object of a slur by conservative Rush Limbaugh. But that was unlikely to be enough to sustain a US House bid.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/File
Sandra Fluke (r.) joins President Obama at a campaign event in Denver on Aug. 8, 2012. On Tuesday, she announced that she will be running for the California Senate, opting out of an anticipated run for the US House.

Sandra Fluke is not going to run for Congress after all. The women’s rights activist and former Georgetown Law student announced late Tuesday that she’s forgoing a try at federal office and instead will campaign for a seat in the California Senate.

“While I strongly considered offering my candidacy for Congress, I feel there is a better way for me to advance the causes that are important to our community,” Ms. Fluke said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

Fluke came to national attention in 2012 after House Republicans refused to let her speak in favor of mandatory coverage of contraception at a panel on the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Conservative talker Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for this stance, igniting a partisan uproar. Mr. Limbaugh eventually apologized, but Fluke became a hero to many on the left.

After graduation, she moved to California, passed the state bar exam, and became active in local women’s rights groups. Many state Democrats thought she was prepping for some sort of political career.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Fluke had filed papers with the California Democratic Party seeking its endorsement in the race to succeed retiring liberal legend Rep. Henry Waxman. This launched a spate of stories (including ours) about the implications of her entry into a crowded Democratic congressional primary field.

But she’s decided to lower her sights, apparently. For her, that’s probably a wise move.

Why? For one thing, the race to inherit Representative Waxman’s 33rd Congressional District seat is already a political roller derby. Its participants include a number of prominent state Democrats, such as former L.A. controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel and current state Sen. Ted Lieu; a couple of independents, self-help author Marianne Williamson and television producer Brent Roske; and (possibly) ex-Republican and current independent Bill Bloomfield, a wealthy businessman who won 46 percent of the vote against Waxman in 2012.

The fact is, it is unlikely Fluke would have won the state Democratic Party endorsement. Without that, she’s nothing but a one-episode pilot series canceled before the general election.

And as Washington Post political reporter Sean Sullivan points out, Ms. Greuel already has close ties to many of the women’s rights organizations and liberal groups whose backing Fluke would covet. That might have made it hard for the novice (that’s Fluke) to make headway in the race.

By running for state office, Fluke works with the state Democratic leadership instead of against it. Did we mention that the Senate seat she’s trying for is being vacated by one of the declared congressional candidates, Ted Lieu? That means Fluke won’t face the difficult task of unseating an incumbent.

Plus, as Philip Bump of “The Wire” notes, the prospect of being one of 50 state senators in sunny California, as opposed to one of 435 federal representatives in swampy D.C., is not an unpleasant one.

Plus, Fluke is building a résumé that will help her later in life.

“This is a better decision. A much better decision,” Mr. Bump writes.

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