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Berman skips State of the Union speech to stay in L.A.

January 24, 2012 |  5:19 pm

Howard L. Berman, left, and Brad Sherman
Rep. Howard Berman, locked in a contentious race  with fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman for the same San Fernando Valley congressional district seat, isn’t  on hand for the president’s State of Union  speech tonight.   His staff says he’s right here in L.A.,  mixing work with a little campaigning.

While many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle  attend the annual speech and often comment  on it afterward, that’s never been Berman’s style, said Gene Smith, who retired from Berman's House staff  and took on a new role as his campaign manager.

“Howard’s a workhorse, not a show horse,” Smith said in a gentle swipe at Sherman.

In some years Berman attended the speech but in others he took it in from his office or elsewhere.

“He always listens, but he doesn’t always go,”  Smith said. 

Sherman not only went to the speech but also had his congressional staff contact reporters ahead of time  to let them know that he would be available to talk about it.

"The president calls us together only once a year,” Sherman said through a spokesman when asked why he thought it was important to attend.  “The State of the Union speech sets the legislative tone for the coming year, and the president's proposals deserve our respect and full attention."

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Photo: Reps. Howard L. Berman, left, and Brad Sherman.  Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times