At Jane Harman's relatively new job as leader of a center for international scholars in Washington, D.C., her colleagues say she still sometimes refers to South Bay residents as her constituents.
Not former constituents. Just constituents.
"I worked my heart out for 17 years," said Harman, who represented the area as a Democrat for nine terms during two separate stints in Congress, periods she calls Harman I and Harman II.
"It was a labor of love, and I am still in love with the place and the people."
Firmly ensconced as the director, president and chief executive of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a job she likens to running "an intellectual candy store," Harman, who was also once a candidate for governor of California, said she has no plans to run for office again.
But she acknowledges that the timing of her departure from Congress - she left office in February 2011, about three months after winning a new term - made the situation a little uncomfortable.
"I am still in the game in a way that I feel is very constructive," said Harman, 67. "I don't regret leaving Congress, although I regret the timing in terms of upsetting some constituents. I love what I am doing."
The job allows Harman, who focused on international issues in Congress, to work to foster intellectual understanding of major world issues.
Among the programs administered by the Wilson Center are The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, where scholars study relations between the two countries, and the Mexico Institute, which seeks to encourage more cooperation between the United States and Mexico.
The Wilson Center is removed from actual policymaking, but Harman said the work of historians can help future leaders better understand key global situations. She noted how scholars have been translating old Cold War documents and have learned that a common belief during the 1950s - that Russia and China were behind North Korea's invasion of South Korea - was not correct.
"It's interesting for historians, but it's also important because it shows how important it is to understand conflict," Harman said.
She said lessons from Korea could have been carried over to Iraq. In October 2002, Harman voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
"We went to war based on bad intelligence," Harman said. "I learned a lesson for that. The lesson I learned is that we had to substantially improve our intelligence community."
While in Congress, Harman served stints on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. In 2006, Harman was expected to become chair of the Intelligence Committee but was passed over by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi in favor of Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes.
Given her experience, Harman is rumored to be a candidate for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a job recently vacated by David Petraeus. Calling the job a perfect fit for a "policy junkie" like herself, the notoriously blunt Harman said she is not expecting President Barack Obama to nominate her.
"It's very flattering to be on the list," she said. "But I predicted then and I predict now that the acting director (Michael Morell) will be chosen. He's very capable."
Harman said she tries to stay out of the day-to-day issues of politics, but notes that she has stayed in touch with Rep. Henry Waxman, a West Los Angeles Democrat who will represent much of the South Bay for the first time starting next month. (Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn won Harman's old seat in a July 2011 special election, but Hahn is shifting to a newly drawn district that stretches from San Pedro north into Wilmington, Carson, Compton and South Gate.)
Harman said she has recommended Waxman closely watch the Los Angeles Air Force base in El Segundo to ensure it retains its status as a powerful economic engine for the region. She said it would be devastating for Southern California to lose it.
As for the rest of her former colleagues in Congress, Harman said she wishes both sides would work together more often and include more representatives in important negotiations. She noted that only a handful of members of Congress are actively involved in discussions to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect in January.
"I don't miss the frustration," she said. "I made the point for years that there are talented people in both parties who serve in Congress. The problem is the business model. Many of them are marginalized."
Since she left Congress, Harman has joined the board of directors of Newsweek Daily Beast Co. and the board of trustees of USC. Her husband, Sidney Harman, who died in 2011 at age 92, had purchased Newsweek magazine in 2010.
She said she tries to return to Southern California as much as possible and continues to make her permanent residence in Venice.
"Nothing beats living in Venice Beach," she said. "There's no question where home is. Home is on the beach."