The Member-vs.-Member battle between California Reps. Howard Berman (above) and Brad Sherman is a symbol of redistricting-forced intraparty duels and is unique for a number of reasons
“I have a proven history of working with and for the people of the San Fernando Valley — to give them a voice and to represent Valley values in Congress,” Sherman said in a statement. “Ultimately, that will be the determining factor in this campaign.”
According to polling by the Sherman campaign released earlier this month, the race has been stagnant since August, with Sherman holding a lead of at least 25 points. At this point, that’s largely an indication of name recognition — Sherman currently represents about 60 percent of the redrawn 30th district, more than three times as much as Berman.
Both should advance to the general election June 5, but Sherman would no doubt like to come out of the all-party primary with a majority of the vote, and Berman wants to cut deeply into that.
“Nothing has changed,” Sherman consultant Parke Skelton said. “Both candidates are better known now, both have increased their favorability some, people are becoming more aware and more committed in their choices. But the gap hasn’t changed.”
For all its fame and fortune, at its core, the race is a tug of war over local issues. The spending is already astronomical, but the basis of the latest dustup is one that could be found in “Any District, USA.”
The Berman campaign vigorously disputes Sherman’s characterization of his role in securing funding for an expansion of Interstate 405, one of the busiest highways in the country. This has come up in some of the seven or so debates and forums they have engaged in over the past several months, with the last one scheduled this Monday at California State University, Northridge.
The Berman campaign shared a five-page document detailing his efforts with former Minnesota Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar, then the ranking member on the Transportation Committee, and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to ensure the project would be fully funded and completed within a few years.
“The difference between my opponent and me is that I don’t just listen. I actually get the job done and have a long record of delivering for the Valley,” Berman said in a statement to Roll Call. “That’s why leading California Democrats, police agencies, and Valley community leaders who have worked with both of us are endorsing my reelection.”
The candidates have met on many occasions already, sometimes along with two of the Republicans in the race, author Susan Shelley and 2010 candidate Mark Reed, who have clearly enjoyed some of the back-and-forth.
Shelley’s campaign YouTube channel features a three-minute clip of one particularly sharp Berman-Sherman exchange on March 14, when voices were raised after Sherman asked Berman whether he’s been using a government-paid vehicle while campaigning.
A couple of more radio debates are in the works before the primary, and five more months of campaigning awaits beyond that.