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James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." And no, Mr. Smith is not running for Henry Waxman's seat. (Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S. ® )

So this is what happens when a member of Congress gives up a seat after 40 years: A veritable flood of candidates.

The deadline for filing for the 33rd Congressional District seat being vacated with the retirement of Henry A. Waxman was 5 p.m. Wednesday. Los Angeles County elections officials report this morning that 21 candidates filed by the deadline, their eligibility subject to review over the next couple of weeks by the California secretary of state’s office.

Yes, 21 candidates. Some are more serious and viable than others, but still, 21 candidates, ranging from political veterans like Wendy Greuel and Ted Lieu, to prosecutor Elan Carr, self-help guru Marianne Williamson and human rights attorney Barbara Mulvaney (the full list is here; the date in the right-most column on the link is when each candidate filed papers).

We all know that democracy can be messy. But who knew it could get so crowded?

The district covers the coast from Palos Verdes to Malibu, and over the mountains a bit to encompass the Agoura Hills and Calabasas region, and inland from Santa Monica to include Beverly Hills and portions of West L.A. The primary is June 3; the top two survivors square off in November.

Get your scorecards ready.

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Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle