Sherman vs. Berman

Posted on November 4, 2011 by

Southern California’s progressive jewish democrats have a problem. 

Two popular U.S. house members have been forced by redistricting to run against each other in the west valley. 

Brad Sherman has been in congress since 1997 which means that the former member of the state board of equalization has spent only four of those years (2006 – 2010) with the democrats in the majority.  He’s 57. 

Howard Berman, on the other hand, has been in the house for 30 years and before the democrats got clobbered last year was chair of the powerful foreign affairs committee.  He’s 70. 

Both are solid (Sherman’s AFL-CIO rating of 100 percent gives him a very narrow edge over  Berman’s 87). 

The real difference, of course, is that Howard has had a long run in big time politics and earned his legacy (with fellow UCLA grad and congressional superstar Henry Waxman) as an influential liberal with solid ties to Hollywood and access to its resources; a national authority on intellectual property and a pioneer (with brother Michael) in direct mail and slate cards. 

Brad’s an up-and-comer, who will hang around the house floor late at night for an opportunity to get a few minutes of C-Span time (he’s been right on target lately on the “free trade” farce). 

They’re very decent, gentle, principled and (as politicians go) unpretentious guys. 

A few months ago, Waxman and others tried to persuade Sherman to defer to his elder, perhaps try another district, but Brad held his ground. 

Redistricting has created other contests within the democratic family (look for an unpleasant showdown at the ports between Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson). 

But the Sherman / Berman battle has generated particular interest and angst because of the participants’ shared ethnicity and origins (the Jewish Journal’s blog on the race is subtitled “Two Jews, One District”). 

The primary is in June.  Let’s hope for a good clean fight, with each candidate – win or lose – coming out looking like a mensch.

Comments (6)


  1. Greg says:

    I feel one really walks the walk when it comes to labor and unions and one (no slouch at 87%) talks a darn good talk. It’s no coin toss but Sherman gets the nod in this one for me. Good luck to both but us bald guys have to stick together. ;-)

  2. T Santora says:

    Most of us in the Labor community count both Howard and Brad as friends.

    If the choice could be characterized as one between warriors, and I am not suggesting it is, the table would tilt toward Brad. For all his awkward nerdiness, Brad works an issue like nobody’s business and seems to love the trenches.

    If the choice is characterized by effectiveness, again I am not suggesting it is, Howard would have the advantage through seniority and its perks alone as a ranking member with deep relationships in Congress.

    From a pragmatic point of view, the way I prefer to characterize my choice here is by asking the question, “If I needed a bill passed, who would I prefer to carry it?” Not so easily answered.

    For Labor, this race may simply come down to not choosing sides in a pointless family argument. At the end of the day, I would be happy to see either return to Congress. Do I want our hard earned COPE dollars working against either of these friends? Not so much.

  3. Gavin Koon says:

    Hopefully one moves and runs in another district. Shame to lose one of them and have to what them fight against each other for a seat. We need both of them.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Gavin. It would be tragic to lose either one of these men, especially with an opportunity to pick up an additional Democratic seat. I have worked with both Brad and Howard, and have actively campaigned for both of them. I have spent a little more time with Howard in Washington (and in LA) working on legislation than I have with Brad, so I may have a bias. Regardless, I have never worked with a more effective, sincere or dedicated legislator than Howard Berman. I have had a few situations when Howard did not do exactly what I wanted and I have even had some disagreements with him and members of his staff. However, those situation probably defined our relationship even more than all the other times we have agreed. It is rare politician these days who will have the courage of his convictions to be as open and candid, and even to disagree with his constituents as Howard. I’m not saying that Brad does not have many these same qualities, I am just saying that I have seen them exhibited stronger in Howard. Some of this may simply have come with age and experience, and I hope we can find a way we can keep them both so that we will benefit from the same degree age and experience from Brad as well.

  5. bill says:

    And I’m sure that the redistricting was done for decent, honorable reasons.

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