Rep. Howard Berman, who is locked in a pitched reelection battle with fellow liberal Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, likes to say he can work with Republicans to get things done. But even he may have been a little stunned when a conservative GOP colleague served up these statements at an entertainment industry event over the weekend:
“I don’t tell people to vote for Democrats,” Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista told those attending the event Sunday, where Issa and Berman were being honored. “If there were a good Republican in the race, I wouldn’t tell you to vote for Howard, probably.
“But the fact is, Howard is in the race of his lifetime, and I want him back.”
An audiotape of Issa’s remarks at the American Spirit Awards gathering was sent to Daily Variety politics and legal editor Ted Johnson, who wrote about them on the entertainment industry newspaper’s Wilshire & Washington blog.
Issa also said Berman was among the few members of Congress who “when they say they are going to do something, they put the power into it.”
Neither the Issa nor the Berman camps publicized the remarks, nor did they respond immediately to requests for comment Wednesday. But a supporter and informal spokeswoman for Berman, who asked not to be identified because she was acting in an unofficial capacity, said the apparently off-the-cuff statements showed Issa “really admires Howard.”
“There is no way a Republican congressman in an election year planned that. I just think it shows it’s genuine,” the Berman supporter said.
The Sherman campaign saw things quite differently.
“We all know politics makes for strange bedfellows but this political romance is stunning in its cynicism and implausibility,” said Sherman consultant Parke Skelton, who called Isssa’s remarks “ a clear sign Howard Berman is desperate and losing his cool in the first serious election he's had in decades."
Sherman and Berman, tossed into the same San Fernando Valley congressional district during last year’s redrawing of the state’s political maps, are competing in a nationally watched race that is expected to set a spending record for a House contest.
Three little-known Republicans are also in the race: author Susan Shelley, businessman/rancher/actor Mark Reed and businessman/restaurateur Navraj Singh, as well as Democrat Vince Gilmore and Green Party member Michael W. Powelson, a college professor.
Under the state’s new “top two” primary system, Berman and Sherman are widely expected to be the candidates in the November general election.
[Updated at 9:04 p.m. During a candidates' debate sponsored by the Valley Democrats United on Wednesday night, Sherman brought up the Issa endorsement and told the audience it had prompted Issa's Democratic opponent to back him. Berman said in an interview after the forum that while he disagrees with Issa on many issues the endorsement showed he is able to work across the political aisle on important matters. ]
Photo: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) at a House committee hearing last year. Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press