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Berman, Sherman get into near-altercation at forum [Video]

October 11, 2012 | 11:30 pm

The bitter race for a San Fernando Valley congressional district took a bizarre turn Thursday when Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) got into a near-altercation during a forum at Pierce College.

Video of the event in Woodland Hills shows the candidates exchanging words and Sherman at one point putting his arm around Berman, saying: "Do you want to get into this?"

A uniformed officer then came onto the stage and appeared to ask that they move away from each other.

Both men are vying for a newly drawn congressional district in what is considered one of the nation's nastiest congressional races.

Things were decidedly calmer at a forum on Wednesday.

Some of the more personal attacks they have lobbed at each other, regarding Berman's use of a government car and Sherman's earnings on loans he made to his campaign, were absent from that debate.

Berman called his rival a "me too congressman," alleging he's known for jumping on popular bills as a co-sponsor but has passed only three he wrote -- two of them to rename post offices.

Sherman retorted that improving someone else's bills and stopping "bad" legislation was just as important as introducing legislation. 

Then he dinged Berman for voting to go to war with Iraq (so did Sherman, but he insisted it was only after he felt boxed into a choice between giving then-President George W. Bush "no power or too much power." Both said their votes were a mistake, based on erroneous intelligence reports that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.

The Wednesday forum, held at ONEgeneration in Reseda, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and four other organizations. The session broke little new ground but gave about 200 audience members a chance to size up the competitors in person. 

The two men again demonstrated that they agree on many issues, among them the need to protect women's rights, to avoid the "fiscal cliff" that awaits the nation in January if House Democrats and Republicans can't agree on a budget and deep spending cuts kick in, and the importance of not yielding to calls to allow oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

Both supported the Affordable Care Act and said Wednesday that it had already provided access to healthcare for thousands of uninsured people and was a good first step. And each said he wanted "comprehensive" immigration reform, including securing borders, providing a path to legal residency for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, and sanctions against employers who hire workers without proper documentation.

And there was the political equivalent of party favors for those who stopped by the candidates' tables in the lobby. Volunteers offered their candidate's trademark "Congressman Brad Sherman" combs in four colors.  Their counterparts handed out bags of "I'm with Howard" cheese corn.


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-- Jean Merl