Sherman-Berman race for House seat in California breaks the mold (+video)
Race for California's 30th District features two sitting congressmen. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are both Democrats. Their positions are nearly identical. Their names rhyme. Isn't this a little weird?
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
They call it Sherman & Berman. Nope, it's not the name of a law firm specializing in personal-injury cases, or of an old-time vaudeville team (though it may seem that way to some voters). Rather, it's shorthand for an unusual US House race in California that pits two sitting congressmen against each other, courtesy of redrawn congressional districts after the 2010 census.Skip to next paragraph
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Even more bizarre: Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman are both Democrats – almost identical in their positions on issues, both with multimillion-dollar war chests, and both with 20-plus years serving in the House.
A handful of these incumbent-on-incumbent races crop up in the country every 10 years after redistricting. But the race for California's reconfigured 30th Congressional District has set itself apart – for its duration, contentiousness, and, yes, high drama. A videotape of a nostril-to-nostril standoff at an Oct. 11 Berman-Sherman debate, in which a sheriff's deputy intervened to separate the two lawmakers, has gone viral online, provoking a fair bit of buzz among voters in this district in the western San Fernando Valley.
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“It’s so sad it’s come to this,” says a patron at a local Internet cafe on Monday afternoon, as other customers gather around a laptop to offer assessments of the video. It shows Mr. Berman, before screaming voters at Pierce College in nearby Woodland Hills, Calif., calling Mr. Sherman “delusional,” and Sherman standing up, putting his arm around Berman, and saying, “You want to get into this, Howard?” The two nearly bump foreheads before the gun-on-his-hip officer arrives. The crowd cheered both sides.
“It’s horrifying to some and humorous to others, but to me it’s kind of human,” says Raphe Sonnenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles, in a phone interview.
Other analysts say the confrontational episode is an indication that Democrats will not achieve their stated goal of picking up 25 seats in the House of Representatives.
“This Dem-on-Dem, in-party fratricide means that [House minority leader Nancy] Pelosi's ‘drive for 25’ ain't gonna happen,” says David McCuan, professor of political science at Sonoma State University, in an e-mail interview. “The GOP will hold the House at least partially due to this development of in-party violence.”