At his fundraising dinner on Nov. 10, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) acknowledged that his race for re-election in the West San Fernando Valley’s new 30th Congressional District is likely to be the most competitive challenge he’s faced in a while.
As a result of California’s citizen-led redistricting process that concluded over the summer, Berman is facing-off against another Jewish, Democratic incumbent congressman, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who is also pinning his hopes for re-election on the 30th District.
“To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here when I really need you,” the 29-year veteran congressman Berman told his supporters, who packed the Beverly Hilton ballroom and helped add an additional $1.6 million to Berman’s growing war chest.
This intra-party race isn’t the only one shaping up in California, but because it pits two long-serving Jewish lawmakers who have been reliable Israel supporters against one another in a district with many Jewish voters, a Berman-Sherman battle was something pro-Israel Democratic activists had hoped could be avoided.
But what looked like an undesirable possibility this summer, when the race was the subject of a cover story in The Jewish Journal, now appears to have become reality.
Many observers predict the two candidates could spend a combined $10 million, or even $12 million, on the campaign. Berman has been raising funds quickly in an effort to catch up to Sherman, whose campaign, as of the end of September, had $3.7 million cash on hand, as compared to the Berman campaign’s $2.3 million.
The two are also battling to win endorsements — or, failing that, to deny them to the opposition. Three days before Berman’s fundraiser, Sherman won an endorsement from the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DPSFV), an organization that politicos refer to by its unpronounceable acronym (just say DIP-siv).
Misleadingly named, DPSFV is not an official arm of the Democratic Party, but rather a coordinating body for 27 local Democratic clubs. Berman and Sherman both addressed the DPSFV members at the meeting on Nov. 7, as did three supporters of each candidate.
Sixty-two percent of the DPSFV voters chose to endorse Sherman in the 30th District.
Eric Bauman, the vice chairman of the California Democratic Party and chair of Los Angeles’ Democratic Party, said that while the DPSFV endorsement wasn’t an indication of what the actual Democratic Party would do at its convention in February 2012, it was, nevertheless, “definitely important,” because it indicates that “Brad’s work over the years with grass-roots Democratic activists has had an important payoff.”
At the Berman fundraiser, the room was full of politicians, local leaders and numerous prominent and powerful members of the Los Angeles Jewish community.
(Full disclosure: According to filings obtained from the Federal Elections Commission, at least two members of the TRIBE Media Corp. board have made significant donations to Berman’s campaign, as has former Jewish Journal publisher Irwin Field.)
Berman is getting support from two Independent Expenditure Committees, often referred to as Super PACs. These political action committees, which officially must not coordinate their actions with candidates or political parties, can raise unlimited sums of money from individuals and corporations, and can use those funds to independently support or oppose a particular candidate.
On Nov. 9, the Los Angeles Times reported that a new Super PAC, the Valley-Israel Alliance, had been created to support Berman’s candidacy, the first such committee organized in support of a single congressional candidate.
And in an interview with The Journal at the Berman fundraiser, California State Sen. Alex Padilla confirmed that he has made phone calls to Berman supporters in recent weeks asking for contributions to a separate Independent Expenditure Committee that is supporting Berman, called Rebuilding America. (According to papers filed by the committee with the Federal Elections Commission, Rebuilding America could support other candidates as well.)
“I’ll do whatever needs to be done to ensure his [Berman’s] re-election next year,” Padilla said, noting that Rebuilding America already had received some contributions and was “gearing up” to make its first independent expenditures to help Berman tell his story to new constituents.
Berman and Sherman will face off in an open primary, alongside at least two declared Republican candidates seeking election in the heavily Democratic 30th District, in June 2012. l