Rafer Johnson makes TV ad for Howard Berman
Former Olympic great Rafer Johnson is starring in a new cable TV ad for Rep. Howard Berman as the longtime congressman battles with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for the same San Fernando Valley seat in the House of Representatives.
“Howard is widely considered one of the most effective congressmen in the nation,” Johnson says in the ad, sounding a couple of key Berman campaign themes, “and he always comes through for the Valley.”
Johnson initially had backed Sherman but switched sides recently.
Johnson, now in his 70s, was a gold medalist in decathlon in 1960, was drafted as a running back by the Rams, helped launch the Special Olympics in 1969 and carried the torch to open the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
He’s not the only venerable superstar to make a campaign ad for Berman—TV actress and animal rights activist Betty White, 90, did so as well.
Sherman this week announced another labor endorsement, that of the 140,000-member Los Angeles County Building and Construction Trades Council. “Brad Sherman understands the issues affecting working people and their day to day struggles, said trades council Executive-Secretary Robbie Hunter.
Berman has garnered support from much of the state’s Democratic political elite, including Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Sherman insists he’s won more backing than Berman from local leaders and community activists. He also has represented more of the newly drawn 30th Congressional District than has Berman and therefore was better known to voters at the start of the race.
An independent citizens commission, assigned to form new political maps last year without regard to party registration or incumbents’ addresses, drew Sherman’s and Berman’s homes into the same district, touching off a nationally watched intraparty fight that is likely to set a spending record for House races.
Three Republicans, one other Democrat and one Green Party member also are on the June 5 ballot.
Photo: Rafer Johnson in 2009, holding the same torch he used to light the Olympic flame in 1984. Credit: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times