With the spotlight on secession for the past few months, it is almost easy to forget that there are major political races involving Jewish candidates in the San Fernando Valley.
The most significant battle is the one being waged in the 27th U.S. House District. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) has been virtually invincible up until now in the 24th District. However, the district was redrawn in September, thus making him an unknown quantity to about two-thirds of his constituents and leaving an opening for challenger Robert Levy, an attorney from Woodland Hills.
"This [election] is a lot different," Sherman said. "In the year 2000, I was running in a district where people knew me. This campaign, the public appearance opportunities are limited because Congress was in session until three weeks before the election, but I am sending out a lot of mail."
Sherman said part of the challenge has been the sheer size and scope of the district -- which now encompasses Northridge, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, Granada Hills and Burbank -- plus the fact that getting attention in a busy news town like Los Angeles has been difficult this year.
"You can't take for granted that people are going to vote for you if they don't know who you are," Sherman pointed out. "The days are gone where people are going to vote party line; a lot of people will skip a candidate if they don't know you."
For his part, Levy said he is concentrating his campaign on the various ethnic communities within the 27th District.
"It's extremely important to reach out to all segments of the community," he said. "Filipino, Asian, Hispanic, as well as Jewish."
Other Jewish congressmen facing reelection in the Valley are Howard Berman (D-Mission Hills) and Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), both of whom are expected to retain their seats.
In the Assembly, two Jewish challengers, Democrat Lloyd Levine and Republican Connie Friedman, are vying to represent 40th District, which was left up for grabs by because Bob Hertzberg had reached the term limit.
Levine, 32, is the son of political consultant Larry Levine and a legislative aide for Assemblyman John Longville (D-Rialto). Friedman, 60, a longtime Republican activist, owns a human resources consulting business and is on the Los Angeles Civil Service Commission. The district is heavily Democratic, favoring Levine.
In the 38th District, Republican Assemblyman Keith Richman of Northridge is expected to win reelection in his race against challenger Republican Paula Calderon. However if Valley secession passes, Richman may find himself as the first mayor of the new city.
Also expected to retain his seat is Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), whose district includes a portion of the Valley.
In the West Valley, Jewish Republican Michael Wissot is attempting to unseat Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), whose 41st Assembly District stretches from Oxnard to Santa Monica. Pavley has the advantage, as an incumbent and a Democrat, in a district that is 48 percent Democrat to 33 percent Republican, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I carried 10 bills relating to education, several on transportation and public safety and several on the environment to the Assembly," Pavley said.
Pavley pointed out that legislation only comprises half of her duties as an assembly member, the other half being constituent services. For example, following a call from a concerned Holocaust survivor, Pavley worked with Bet Tzedek Legal Services of Los Angeles to have banks voluntarily waive fees charged to survivors receiving reparations payments via wire transfer.
Wissot, a former intern for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is hoping to win votes away from Pavley by focusing on voters' dissatisfaction with Sacramento's handling of the economy.
Wissot said that going door-to-door has been the key element of his campaign. "People feel the effect, that somebody came to their door and listened to their concerns and wanted to do something about it," he said. "That's the heart of representative democracy."
Of all the candidates in the various races, the 28-year-old Wissot has the best consolation prize if he doesn't win: he met his beshert, Cantor Alison Wienir of Stephen S. Wise, on the campaign trail.
"If the sole purpose of this election was to meet the love of my life, I'll accept that with great appreciation," Wissot said.