Democrats Berman, Sherman step up fight over GOP supporters
If the spectacle of two career Democrats going at it over bragging rights to Republican support seems odd to you, blame it on California’s new elections system, which sent some candidates from the same party to duke it out in the fall.
Those candidates, needing to reach beyond their traditional bases, are scrambling for voters outside their own party. And the competition for opposite-party support has reached ferocious proportions in the high-spending, nationally watched clash between seasoned Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman.
The onetime allies have been battling over the same San Fernando Valley congressional seat since new political maps put their homes into the same district.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 48% to 26%, with 21% of voters unaffiliated with any party. Both candidates have stepped up their wooing of voters not traditionally prone to supporting Democrats when they had an alternative.
Earlier this week, Berman, who finished 10 points behind top vote-getter Sherman in the seven-candidate primary, trotted out endorsements from nationally prominent Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The senators said they liked Berman because he could garner bipartisan support to get things done.
Sherman said it was because Berman had gone along with the their hawkish stance on Iraq. And on Wednesday Sherman unveiled a list of area Republican officeholders who are backing him because of what he has done to help Valley constituents. He cited Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita and L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, among others.
Alleging in a written statement that the senators had applauded Berman’s “early efforts” to give President Bush “the full authority to invade Iraq,” Sherman said he was “proud to have the endorsement of every Republican elected official who lives in or near the San Fernando Valley.”
Not three hours later, the Berman campaign released its own -- longer -- list of area GOP officeholder supporters, including Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton and Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. The Berman campaign also pointed out that Sherman too had voted to go to war with Iraq.
“Democrats and Republicans are supporting Howard because he is the Valley’s workhorse,” Berman campaign strategist Brandon Hall said in a statement released with the GOP supporters list. He called Berman “a leader who always delivers for his community and country.”
And just so unaffiliated voters won't feel left out, each candidate also produced an "independent" elected official -- Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman for Berman and L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine for Sherman.
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-- Jean Merl
Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times