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Web Producer To Challenge Henry Waxman for Congressional Seat

Producer Brent Roske has spent the past few years launching a “West Wing”-inspired web series called “Chasing the Hill” that, to his credit, snagged alum Richard Schiff among its cast members.

Now Roske is really chasing the hill, throwing his hat in the ring in a quest to unseat Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a stalwart of Los Angeles’ westside. He is planning to officially announce his bid on Aug. 9 at an event in Malibu, where Melissa Fitzgerald, one of the stars of “Chasing the Hill,” will introduce him.

Chasing the Hill” is a half-hour drama about a Democratic representative from California, played by Robin Weigert, seeking reelection. The show has drawn not just Schiff to its cast but Joshua Malina, another “West Wing” regular, and real-life politicos Gray Davis, Mike Gravel, Ed Rendell and Dennis DeConcini for appearances. David Hasselhoff plays the governor of California in a recently shot episode.

Roske, 39, is a relentless promoter of his series, reflecting what it takes to build awareness on the web, drawing on the show’s political connections as a hook for D.C. media coverage.

So doesn’t a run for office only add to the publicity mill? “More awareness never hurt and some of that will happen, but this endeavor is separate from the show,” he said.

He is running as an independent, placing emphasis on entertainment industry issues like runaway production, and his first campaign spot “will show the intersection between Hollywood and Washington and why voting for someone from the entertainment industry just makes sense to represent this district.” The kickoff event will be at Creative Visions, where a group will be shooting public service announcements to spotlight the issue of runaway production.

Roske, a native of Minnesota, was a creative executive at NBC Universal for 10 years, and received a commemorative Emmy for producing a documentary about Tiger Woods.

He acknowledges that his campaign is a “long shot,” but plans to build awareness via viral videos and social media, and spend less than $5,000. His website features words of support from some of the actors from “Chasing the Hill,” including Schiff.

“Waxman isn’t a bad guy but he was elected the year I was born. He’s had enough time, and he should be running in Maryland which is where he lives,” Roske said.

Waxman has held his seat since 1975, reelected with more than 60% of the vote every year except 2012. He defeated independent Bill Bloomfield with 54% of the vote, in a redrawn congressional district. Waxman spent $2.7 million, and Bloomfield spent nearly $8 million.

A spokeswoman for Waxman did not return a request for comment. Even though the longtime congressman faced a stronger-then-expected challenge last year, he has enjoyed entertainment industry support as one of the prominent liberal voices in Congress, particularly on issues like the environment.

Roske will be running in an open primary on June 3, with the top two finishers going on to the Nov. 4, 2014 general election.

He’s proposing that if he wins, he will “share” the position with Waxman for the first year, a type of mentorship. Waxman told Roll Call last month, “I appreciate his kind words about my work in Congress. I also appreciate Mr. Roske’s novel proposal and will think about it some more, but I suspect there would be workability issues.”

Photo: Roske, right, with Richard Schiff and former Gov. Gray Davis.

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