February 21, 2002
Valley Boys Battle for Hertzberg’s Seat
Concern for the future of Jewish political involvement runs high in Los Angeles, but not in the 40th Assembly District. The southern San Fernando Valley district will lose a highly influential Jewish representative when former Speaker Robert Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) is termed out this year. The contest for his seat, however, comes down to two ambitious, young Jewish policy wonks, both of whom seem poised for long careers in elective office.
The difficulty in the Democratic primary race is distinguishing between the candidates, Lloyd Levine and Andrei Cherny. Both are centrist Democrats with well-connected mentors; both grew up in the district, left for school and pursued political careers before returning to the Valley, and both campaigns share a similar focus on education and traffic concerns.
Connie Friedman, a businesswoman and longtime Jewish Republican activist, is also campaigning for the seat. However, registered voters in the district are overwhelmingly Democratic and the Democratic candidate is expected to win the seat.
Cherny, 26, has more experience in national politics than at the local level. Shortly after graduating from Harvard, the son of Czech immigrants went to work as a speech writer for then-Vice President Al Gore. He helped craft the 2000 Democratic Party platform and has written a book on public policy, "The Next Deal." When he returned to the San Fernando Valley, Hertzberg hired him as a senior policy adviser and has endorsed his candidacy.
Levine, 32, has already written legislation for the Assembly while working on the staff of Assemblyman John Longville (D-Rialto). His campaign literature stresses his membership in The Executives fundraising group for the Jewish Home for the Aging and his work with The Jewish Federation's of Greater Los Angeles' Koreh L.A. literacy program.
Reared in North Hollywood, Levine graduated from UC Riverside and has worked as the legislative director for Longville. Levine's father, Larry Levine, is an influential political consultant active with the Valley anti-secession group One L.A.
Like Cherny, Lloyd Levine is opposed to Valley secession. He said, "If I wanted to tell people I lived in a little city north of L.A., I'd move to Bakersfield." Also like his opponent, he is committed to getting the secession issue on the ballot.
Levine and Cherny have substantive differences on some policy issues. For example, Cherny supports using state resources to improve highways and lessen traffic congestion along the 101 corridor, while Levine would focus on bringing rail lines into the Valley to achieve that goal.
Despite such differences, their most heated debate is over who is more of a Valley Boy. Since most of Cherny's experience is in Washington, D.C., and Levine has spent time in Sacramento working for an assemblyman, each candidate accuses the other of carpet-bagging -- moving into the 40th District just to run for the Assembly seat.
When the two met in Woodland Hills for a debate sponsored by The Executives, the breakfast meeting opened with each candidate joining the audience in "Hamotzi." So whoever wins the 40th District Democratic primary when the man who published "Yiddish for Assemblymembers" leaves his Assembly seat, the Valley will have a qualified Jewish representative to replace him.