Is the race between Jewish incumbent democratic congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman splitting the Jewish community in two?
That was the question posed to me by a correspondent from CNN earlier this week. And while the short answer is no (or at least not yet), a longer answer is worthwhile—and serves as a good introduction to this new blog, which will follow this unique race as it develops.
The cable news channel’s documentary unit came to the Jewish Journal’s offices on Tuesday as part of a nationwide look at the once-a-decade redistricting process. The hour-long special, set to air in November, will take a particularly in-depth look at California, where for the first time, the lines dividing the state into political districts were drawn not by elected officials but by an appointed Citizens Redistricting Commission.
And like many media outlets, CNN is watching the developing race between Reps. Berman and Sherman in the newly drawn 30th congressional district, located in the West San Fernando Valley.
The two Jewish incumbent Democrats have been representing adjacent districts in the San Fernando Valley for years, and when the new district lines were finalized in August, it didn’t take long for Sherman—and only a short time later, Berman—to go into reelection campaign mode.
Sherman and Berman have both released high-profile endorsements, and Sherman has circulated poll numbers that show him winning either a two-way or three-way race—results that Berman, in a recent article in the Forward, appeared to agree with.
But the primary election—an open primary in which all voters can cast ballots—won’t take place until June of 2012, and the top two finishers from that election wouldn’t run against one another until the following November. Both dates are a long way off.
Numerous journalists are covering this story—of Jew v. Jew, of Dem v. Dem. But aside from the people who have already endorsed each candidate, nobody has publicly encouraged either Berman or Sherman to move from the 30th district and run for reelection somewhere else—least of all Jewish community leaders.
Politically savvy Jews and well-informed Israel supporters are paying attention to the race—but publicly at least, they’re all simply hoping that a way will be found to keep both congressmen in office.
As for the voters, it doesn’t appear to be the primary item on their agenda—that is, if they’re aware of the looming head-to-head matchup at all. At Sherman’s town hall meeting in August, aside from the questions asked by three journalists in attendance, the prospect of a Berman v. Sherman race came up only once.
Sherman sidestepped that question saying that the focus of the town hall meeting was policy, not politics—but his constituents were leaning in that direction anyway. People asked about job creation. They asked about the American involvement in Libya. One person asked about Israel; another young man, an Iraq War veteran, asked about a military decoration he felt he was owed.
Those were Sherman’s most involved constituents—and in August, they had other things on their minds. But in the months between now and June 2012, the Berman-Sherman conundrum will become increasingly unavoidable.
Or it could go away. Somehow.