It’s been an eventful week in the Berman-Sherman race.
With a San Fernando Valley group of Democratic activists voting on Nov. 7 to endorse Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), and, two days later, the Los Angeles Times uncovering the existence of a new “super PAC” created to support the candidacy of the other Democratic incumbent in the race, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village), you’d barely know that the election for the 30th congressional district isn’t until November 2012.
The endorsement of Sherman by the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley (DPSFV) raises two questions: Who is this group, and how much does their endorsement mean?
Sherman’s campaign manager, Parke Skelton, said it was “the most substantial endorsement” in the race so far—and that’s coming from the campaign that had Bill Clinton’s picture topping their list of early endorsers in August.
At the DPSFV meeting on Monday night, about 50 people voted in the secret ballot election, representing 27 local Democratic clubs, including Democrats for Israel. Sixty-two percent of those voting chose to endorse Sherman.
Berman, later, downplayed the result. “I think this is of minimal significance in terms of the election,” he told a reporter from the Studio City Patch. “Brad has lived with the group for many years.”
According to Eric Bauman, the vice chairman of the California Democratic Party and chair of Los Angeles’s Democratic Party, the group, which politicos refer to by its barely pronounceable acronym (just say Dip-Suv), is not the same as the Democratic Party. It is a coordinating body for 27 local Democratic clubs, and DPSFV’s endorsement of Sherman doesn’t necessarily indicate what the Democratic party itself will do at its convention in February 2012, Bauman said. But the group’s endorsement is, he said, “definitely important,” particularly in light of the very real possibility that the Democrats may not officially endorse either candidate at the convention.
“The party endorsement, in competitive races, is often very difficult,” Bauman said. “I believe that will be especially so in the race between Sherman and Berman because they both have relationships with the delegates and the other elected officials that are very deep.
“But one thing the DPSFV endorsement shows is that Brad’s work over the years with grassroots Democratic activists has had an important payoff,” Bauman added, “and that will certainly have an effect on the party’s endorsement.”
California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley, and who worked for Berman for years, spoke at the meeting on Monday on behalf of his former boss.
“From my perspective, it’s too bad,” Blumenfield said of the endorsement, but added that he wasn’t worried about Berman’s chances.
“There are tons of Democratic clubs that will be endorsing Congressman Berman,” Blumenfield said, noting that in his own experience, DPSFV’s having endorsed another Democrat in 2008 did not stop Blumenfield from winning that election.
“There’s a long history of [DPSFV] not endorsing the person who wins,” Blumenfield said.
Skelton, Sherman’s campaign manager, thought that Berman and his supporters were being disingenuous by downplaying the importance of DPSFV, and its choosing to endorse Sherman.
“If it’s of minimal significance,” Skelton said, “why is he [Berman] going down to beg for their endorsement?”
(More on the Berman-backing Super-PAC, the Valley-Israel Alliance, soon.)