Jewish Journal


February 7, 2012

Why we’re holding a candidates’ debate in the 30th district



On February 21, at 7:30 pm, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Republican Mark Reed, who are all seeking to be the next representative in the new 30th congressional district in the San Fernando Valley, will meet at Temple Judea in Tarzana for a candidates’ debate.

Three panelists from the Jewish Journal—Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman, Staff Writer Jonah Lowenfeld, creator and author of the Berman v. Sherman blog, and Jewish Journal Columnist Bill Boyarsky—will be asking the candidates questions about foreign and domestic policy, as well as other issues of interest to local voters.

This is the second public debate between candidates from the 30th congressional district, whose primary election is in June. There are at least three reasons why we think it’s important to hold such a debate—and important for voters in the 30th district to attend.

1. The race doesn’t only include Jewish candidates; it also hinges on what could be called “Jewish issues.”

As readers of the Berman v. Sherman blog well know, this race has pitted two Jewish incumbent congressmen, who are seen as reliable pro-Israel voices in congress, against one another. But in trying to win over voters in the 30th district, all candidates will be addressing issues of importance to the Jewish community—which is why the panelists will ask questions about Iran, Israel and local matters.

2. Journalists ask probing questions.

It’s what we do. At the first debate, organized by a nonprofit community group, moderators asked candidates broad, open-ended questions. We’ll be doing some of that, sure, but we’ll also take advantage of the questions that have already been answered to dig a bit deeper into the records and positions of these candidates.

3. Candidate debates are now, more than ever, of tremendous importance to voters trying to decide whom to support.

In the Feb. 13 issue of The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg made the case that in the race for President, voters need more, not fewer candidate debates. In a media landscape more dominated by partisan news outlets than ever, and with the rise of Super PACs that candidates on both sides of the political spectrum profess to dislike even as they embrace their assistance (which usually comes in the form of negative campaign ads), debates, Hertzberg writes, “are of inestimable value.”

[Debates] enable voters to see and hear the candidates in a sustained manner, outside the protective cocoons of their handlers, packagers, stage managers, consultants, PACs, and Super PACs. They oblige the candidates to speak for themselves. As [organizer of the Commission on Presidential Debates Newt] Minow has written, “The debates are the only time during presidential campaigns when the major candidates appear together side by side under conditions that they do not control.”

It’s all but certain that many millions of dollars will be spent in the race for the 30th district. That money will buy a whole lot of pre-packaged communication from the campaigns—much of which will probably end up in the mailboxes of voters. Debates allow voters to see for themselves what the candidates are like in person, in a situation that’s about a close to real-life as you can get on the campaign trail.

These are just three reasons we think that it’s important for voters in the 30th district—and engaged Jews across Los Angeles—to pay attention to debates like the one we’re holding.

If you can make it to Temple Judea on February 21, please come. Admission and parking are free.

And though we won’t be taking questions from the audience on debate night, we do see this as a chance for the community—broadly defined—to learn more about these candidates before deciding who to support. We’ve been soliciting questions from Jewish groups and other groups from across the community and across the political spectrum, and we’d also be interested in hearing what questions you want answered, too.

Email suggestions to jonahl@jewishjournal.com. Include the words “Debate Question” in the subject line.

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