(CN) — Laura Friedman has spent a lot of time in pool halls. The Los Angeles County assemblywoman was semi-pro while in college, and later while working in the film industry. She’s familiar with professional pool and poker circles. Both games teach a person how to negotiate and be professional, she said.
It’s those skills, learned in a non-traditional setting, that Friedman said she’s taken into the political world. If she wins the Democratic primary for California’s 30th congressional district, she’ll likely take those skills to Washington, D.C.
The north Los Angeles-area 30th, after all, is a solidly blue district even by California standards, going for Democrats in every election cycle since the early 1960s. U.S. Representative Adam Schiff has served the region since 2001, most recently for the 30th after the latest round of redistricting. Earlier this year, he announced he wouldn’t seek reelection and would instead run to succeed Senator Dianne Feinstein, setting off a tough fight for his former seat.
Being a woman player in the male-dominated game of pool gave Friedman confidence for dealing with another male-dominated sphere: that of politics. It’s helped her think under pressure and become more confident, pushing her into realms she otherwise wouldn’t have been comfortable in.
“The pool room taught me people want to play mind games when they want to win,” Friedman said in an interview.
Friedman says lessons like this are helping her in her current race for Congress. She’s contending with a large field of candidates for the job, most of them men. Other candidates include Mike Feuer, former city attorney for Los Angeles; Nick Melvoin, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education; State Senator Anthony Portantino; Ben Savage, an actor known for the TV show “Boy Meets World;” and Sepi Shyne, the mayor of West Hollywood.
The 30th Congressional District is home to iconic Los Angeles and American spots, including Griffith Park, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios Hollywood and the Hollywood sign. The district also includes Glendale, where Friedman previously served as a city council member, including a stint as mayor from 2011 to 2012.
Under Schiff — a current star of the Democratic Party — the 30th has grown into a high-profile seat. Schiff became a target of Republican ire when, as ranking member of the U.S. House Select Intelligence Committee and later chair of the House Intelligence Committee, he played a large public role in the investigations into then-President Donald Trump. The Republican-controlled House in June voted along party lines to censure Schiff for his role in those investigations. Schiff called the move “false and defamatory.”
Friedman could face a tough primary — and not only because of the large number of contenders or the significance of the seat. As she’s found her political footing first as a local Glendale official and later as a Los Angeles County assemblywoman, she, like all politicians, has racked up her share of critics and frenemies.
Her biggest political headaches came after Friedman accepted a powerful role as chair of the California State Assembly’s Transportation Committee, a position she still holds. In that role, she found herself at the center of an impasse over $4.2 billion in high-speed rail funding.
Friedman told Politico she wanted more specifics on funding. Critics blamed her for delay. Streetsblog, a news and advocacy group focused on urbanism, slammed Friedman in a series of editorials, accusing her of killing a ban on diesel trains and holding her responsible for the funding delay. Friedman responded directly to the second op-ed on social media, calling it a “biased & incomplete” editorial.