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Berman, Sherman Start Unloading War Chests Ahead of June Test

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
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

California Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman have purchased almost $1.5 million combined in cable television time ahead of their June 5 primary, according to figures provided by the campaigns.

Both Democrats are expected to advance beyond the top-two primary in this safe Democratic district in the San Fernando Valley. Their initial media buys, which were launched April 16, were designed to improve their primary showing and are the latest evidence this hotly contested fight could go down as one of the costliest House races ever.

In the shadow of Hollywood, this Member-vs.-Member battle is a symbol of redistricting-forced intraparty duels and is unique for a number of reasons. Berman’s fundraising reports read like movie credits, and he was honored last night at the “Grammys on the Hill” for his efforts to improve the working environment of the nation’s music community.

Berman, who is backed by California’s two Senators and two-thirds of the Democratic House delegation, has outraised Sherman by $1 million this cycle and took in more than $50,000 on Monday at a Sacramento fundraiser hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown. Sherman’s $4 million war chest as of March 31 was the largest of any Democratic House candidate, according to Political MoneyLine.

Direct mail will likely be the dominant medium in the prohibitively expensive Los Angeles media market, but the TV ads could help the campaigns get the needle moving and, at the very least, help distinguish the two Members from each other. They’re from the same party and have similar voting records. They’re both Jewish and have represented parts of the San Fernando Valley for years. Their last names rhyme, and they’re often mistaken for each other and even referred to by their first names to avoid confusion.

“A part of it is really just a reflection of running for the House in the Los Angeles media market and is something every House candidate goes through, where there is virtually no free media attention,” LA-based Democratic strategist Roy Behr said. “Even for candidates who have been around as long as these guys, there’s relatively little serious name recognition.”

Berman, who hasn’t received as little as 60 percent of the vote since his first race in 1982, spent more than $1 million for a cable TV buy. Sherman spent about $420,000 for a six-week flight of a positive spot that highlights his work on behalf of the area since first being elected in 1996. It says Sherman fought to preserve Social Security and Medicare but also furthers his claim to the valley, which he and Berman split representation of for the last 16 years.

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