July 19, 2011
Berman vs. Sherman?
California’s new citizen-led redistricting panel could force two Jewish Democrats into a face-off
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“I signed his ketubah, and I have huge respect for him,” Mizrahi said of Sherman. “But I have respect for every member of our board of advisers,” she added. Sherman founded The Israel Project’s board of advisers; Berman joined more recently.
“It’s very unfair the way the California redistricting process is having stalwart supporters of Israel being forced to run against each other,” Mizrahi added.
To be sure, some Jewish Republicans have a different perspective. “I would rather see pro-Israel Hispanic Republican representatives than partisan Jewish Democrats who never challenge the hostility of President Obama,” Larry Greenfield, a fellow in American Studies at the Claremont Institute, said.
But Republicans are by no means happy with the work of the commission so far. According to the Ventura County Star, the state GOP chairman said that if the lines set to be unveiled on July 28 look anything like the visualizations released last week, his party would launch a referendum to overturn the maps.
While most Jewish observers are following Mizrahi’s lead and not taking sides on a still-hypothetical race between two reliable pro-Israel incumbents, some are indicating where their support would go if Berman and Sherman were to go head to head.
Waxman, who has known and worked with Berman for more than 40 years, said he has also worked with Sherman in Congress and hoped that the two incumbents would be able to be re-elected in separate Congressional districts. If push comes to shove, however, Waxman said he would support Berman.
“There should be no question about it,” he said.
As reasons, Waxman cited Berman’s record of support for Israel, his expertise in foreign policy and his ability to sway the opinions of fellow lawmakers in both parties — but no single quality is more important, in Waxman’s view, than Berman’s seniority in Congress.
“He is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs committee,” Waxman said. “He has years of experience. He is highly regarded. We are very lucky to have him play the role he plays. And I think the country is lucky.
“A freshman Democrat is not going to take his place,” Waxman continued. “Brad Sherman is not going to take his place.”
Donna Bojarsky, a public policy consultant who is active in the Jewish community and the entertainment industry, said she has had “dozens of conversations” in recent months with Jewish and political leaders about the impact redistricting could have on the San Fernando Valley’s representatives.
Bojarsky, who calls Berman a longtime friend, said those conversations started in November 2010, when Democrats lost the House in the mid-term election and the Citizens Redistricting Commission won the power to draw California’s Congressional lines. She said the people she spoke with were singularly focused on keeping Berman in Congress.
“He has a unique ability to both speak to the Jewish community, to speak to their concerns, but also internationally he commands tremendous respect,” Bojarsky said of Berman.
Mel Levine, who served in Congress from 1983 to 1993, said he has financially supported both Berman and Sherman, and considers them both friends. And while he said the ideal would be for both Berman and Sherman to return to Congress, he expects many other Jewish and pro-Israel leaders to line up with Waxman and Bojarsky in supporting Berman, should he actually have to face Sherman.
“Hopefully, no choices will have to be made,” Levine said. “At the same time, I am clear that the pro-Israel world and the national and local Jewish worlds understand Howard’s very unique role and will consider his staying in Congress to be absolutely essential.”
When asked to name individuals whose endorsements might sway voters to support him in the event of a race against Berman, Sherman objected to the idea that one citizen has any more “clout” than another.
“I will send you the voter registration file for those communities that are likely to be in a San Fernando Valley district,” Sherman said. “The idea that in a democracy, anybody’s got clout and other people don’t have clout — did I mention I was a Democrat?”
Both Berman and Sherman have significant financial resources at their disposal. According to the most recent data filed with the Federal Election Commission, Berman raised $577,560 in the first six months of the year, and had $1,507,122 cash on hand as of June 30. Sherman reported having raised $549,494 so far in 2011 and having $3,697,681 cash on hand.
Berman, speaking before the exact numbers became public, was unworried about a funding gap. “The one thing I’d say on this subject is that I will not lose because I am inadequately resourced,” Berman said.
The two incumbents’ records in fundraising have led to much speculation about whether Berman or Sherman might be willing to run in one of the districts adjacent to the West San Fernando Valley district both prefer.
Howard Welinsky, chair of Democrats for Israel, said he is dubious that a Sherman versus Berman race is going to take place, because both have other options.
“Sherman has the option of Ventura County,” Welinsky said, referring to a proposed district that includes much of the area currently represented by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura), which appears to be leaning Democratic. “And, of course, Berman has a viable option in the East Valley seat,” Welinsky said.
But how good are those options? Sherman has said he is not interested in running in Ventura, and whether Berman has a shot to win in the majority-Latino district is not clear.
On June 10, just hours after the commission released the first draft of the congressional districts, Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, a former State Assemblyman and prominent Latino leader, announced that he would run for Congress in the proposed East Valley seat. According to the Federal Election Commission Web site, David R. Hernandez, a Republican, also has declared his intent to run there, and other Latino leaders are said to be considering the possibility of running there.
Levine said that the scenario involving Sherman running in Ventura County was the “likely and desirable result.”
“It leaves open the strong likelihood that you not only have a Hispanic representative, but that Berman, [Rep. Adam] Schiff [D-Burbank] and Sherman all get returned to Congress, but in somewhat different configurations than they hold now,” Levine said.
What looks “desirable” to Levine, for Sherman is anything but. His assessment of his chances of winning re-election in the proposed Ventura seat come down to numbers.
“You look at the current draft of the West San Fernando Valley district [and it includes] 60 percent of people I currently represent and another 30 percent I used to represent 10 years ago,” Sherman said. “You compare that to the Ventura County seat and the numbers are zero and 15.”
Berman and Sherman aren’t the only incumbents who might ultimately be drawn into the same district; the 2010 ballot measure that created the redistricting commission specified that decisions about boundaries were not to take account of existing district lines, the partisan makeup of any proposed district or the locations of incumbent officials’ residences.
Bauman, of the Democratic Party, said party leaders are working across the state to minimize the number of districts in which incumbents would be pitted against one another.
But neither Sherman nor Berman said he had been approached by anyone in the party to discuss the possibility of running in any district other than the one in the West San Fernando Valley.
And both lawmakers said there has been no talk of another job being offered as an incentive to bow out of the race.
“That I’d call a hypothetical question,” Berman said. “My plans are to run for re-election, and the only reason to run for re-election is because I think my chances of winning re-election are quite good.”
“I do not expect any other position to become available, and I have been independent and pointed in my questions, so I have not positioned myself to seek an appointment to any executive branch position,” Sherman said.
“But, you know, there are lots of ways this could work out,” Sherman added.
The commission’s final lines are expected to be released on or around July 28 and must be certified by a bipartisan supermajority of the 14-member commission by Aug. 15.
That supermajority must consist of three Democratic commissioners, three Republicans and three affiliated with neither major party. If such a voting bloc can’t be assembled, however, the task of drawing district lines would go straight to the California Supreme Court.
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