Berman, Sherman mix it up -- again -- in congressional race forum
In what has been dubbed by a journalism organizaton as one of the "10 nastiest House races" of the election season, rival Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman faced off at yet another candidates forum Wednesday.
While 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 Wednesday's 90-minute forum, the congressmen each managed to land some zingers.
Berman called his rival for a newly drawn San Fernando Valley congressional district seat 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 forum, held at ONEgeneration in Reseda and sponsored by the League of Women Voters and four other organizations, was the latest in at least half a dozen such head-to-head squareoffs between the two congressmen since the first of the year.
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 demostrated 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 Health 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 illegal 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.
-- Jean Merl
Photo: Reps. Brad Sherman, left, and Howard Berman at a candidates forum earlier this year. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times