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Big money, a game of chicken, and Wikipedia smears: a month in the Berman v. Sherman race

by Jonah Lowenfeld

October 12, 2011 | 6:31 pm

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), left, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) testifying at a house subcommittee in 2003.

In the time since this blog first launched, media outlets have continued beating the bushes for news on the developing race between Rep. Howard Berman (D - Valley Village) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D - Sherman Oaks). As a result of this year’s citizen-led redistricting process, the two Jewish Democratic incumbent Congressmen have been thrown into a head-to-head competition for a district in the West San Fernando Valley.

But amidst all the chatter about oversized fundraising and political endorsements, there has still been little if any discussion of the accomplishments of and policy positions held by these two experienced politicians.

Voters won’t weigh in until the June 2012 primary, but “insider baseball” is fun in the meantime, right?

The Los Angeles Times, in an article that served as a good primer on the still-early days of this race, spoke with Political consultant Michael Berman, who is running his brother Howard’s campaign. Michael told the reporters that even though Sherman’s campaign had more than twice as much cash at the last reporting period, Howard, “will not be outraised.”

Just how much money is going into this race? Los Angeles Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman told Politico the total spending on the House race might be somewhere between $10 and $12 million, which appears to be the range most reporters have settled on. The L.A. Times said the warring camps could spend upwards of $10 million on the June “jungle primary” alone, and Bill Boyarsky, writing in the Jewish Journal, put the total spending by all candidates in the primary and the general election somewhere between $12 and $13 million.

Do these numbers include the spending by the two less well-known Republican candidates in the race, novelist Susan Shelley and actor, rancher and businessman Mark Reed? Hard to know, but suffice it to say, there’ll be a lot of coin going into this battle. Berman told Politico he expects about 20 percent of his war chest to come from Hollywood bigwigs like Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

And Democratic Party leaders can’t seem to persuade either Berman or Sherman to run somewhere else. Berman went “all in” when he endorsed Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas in the adjacent 29th Congressional District. That’s the newly redrawn Latino-majority district that Sherman would’ve liked the 70-year-old ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee to run in, but, as illustrated by Gene Maddaus in the LA Weekly, in the game of political chicken that is the Berman-Sherman race, “Berman’s endorsement [...] of Cardenas is the equivalent of tying his own hands so he can’t swerve out of the way. Your move, Brad Sherman.”

In addition to crafting that exquisite metaphor, Maddaus also reported that a renegade anonymous editor in Pennsylvania has been messing with the “Brad Sherman” page on Wikipedia.

All this in just a month? What might the next eight months bring?

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