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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Sherman, Doyle Offer Stark Differences

November 01, 2000|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If things had turned out differently last spring, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman might be running against ex-Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter in Tuesday's general election.

But the ponytailed Republican decided to bow out of the race, saying he wanted to focus on his work as an advocate for ballistic missile defense.

So Sherman, a former tax attorney, is being challenged by GOP candidate Jerry Doyle, an investment banker turned TV actor, whose most prominent role was as a security officer on the syndicated science fiction series "Babylon 5."

Sherman doesn't appear worried in his bid for a third term in the 24th Congressional District, which covers part of the Conejo Valley, Calabasas, Woodland Hills, Malibu and Sherman Oaks.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 2, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Congressional race--Photographs of U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and his Republican opponent, actor Jerry Doyle, that accompanied a story on the 24th congressional race were inadvertently switched Wednesday.

"Only an unexpected massive attack could turn this into a race," Sherman said.

The incumbent, who has collected more than $1 million in campaign contributions, had $300,000 left over in the final week of the race. In contrast, Doyle reported a campaign chest of $128,781 in mid-October, with about $62,000 remaining.

The fact that a stronger and better-financed opponent did not materialize was summarized by Herbert Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University: "Nobody wants to take Sherman on. The smart money says Sherman's going to win. And if Sherman wins again, you can look forward to many years of Brad Sherman."

Besides strong financial backing, Sherman has another advantage: Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 45% to 36% in a district where Democrats have controlled the seat for decades.

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Moreover, as a member of the House, Sherman has been able to build both a record and a contributor base as a member of the Banking and Financial Services and International Relations committees.

All that makes for a tough, uphill battle for Doyle, Gooch said.

Sherman, 46, and Doyle, 44, offer voters starkly different choices. They disagree on many national and local issues, generally splitting along party lines.

Sherman favors maintaining the existing Social Security system, while Doyle favors a plan that would allow individuals to invest a portion of their contributions in the stock market.

Sherman opposes eliminating the estate tax levied on families' inheritances. He supports exemptions on estates up to $2 million, with slightly higher caps on family farms and businesses. Doyle wants to eliminate the tax.

Sherman favors using federal budget surpluses to pay off the national debt, while Doyle supports using a portion of the surplus money for tax breaks.

Doyle criticized Sherman for opposing the Republican attempt to repeal the so-called marriage penalty tax, which he said affects 62,000 couples in the district. Sherman said he doesn't think married couples should be penalized. But he does not support a repeal that would give additional breaks to some couples who already pay less by filing jointly.

On education, Sherman opposes vouchers to pay for private schools; Doyle supports vouchers.

Doyle also advocates the breakup of Los Angeles Unified School District into smaller districts. Sherman believes a regional subdistrict system under Supt. Roy Romer could eliminate the need for a breakup.

Sherman favors abortion rights, while Doyle opposes abortion. But Doyle said he would not support overturning the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

Their images are as disparate as their ideologies.

The balding Sherman conveys his sense of humor and humility to voters by handing out campaign combs rather than buttons or refrigerator magnets.

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In contrast, Doyle has a camera-pleasing smile and a following of TV fans, who can keep tabs on his campaign through a number of Web sites. He boasts that he's the only candidate with his own action-figure doll and has drawn parallels between his adventurous "Babylon 5" character and the real-life Jerry Doyle.

At a recent fund-raiser, he quipped, "I want to put the 'party' back in the Republican Party."

Doyle calls Sherman "an entrenched big-money politician that's not in touch with the district." This is underscored by Sherman's strong backing from organized labor, which accounts for at least $139,500 of his contributions, and other special-interest groups, Doyle said.

Sherman counters that his supporters also include the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and a host of elected officials in Los Angeles County and area cities. He has built trust among local voters, obtaining $15 million for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy land and build an educational amphitheater, he said.

Sherman has been vocal in his opposition to the Ahmanson Ranch housing development planned just inside the Ventura County line, saying it would harm the environment in the San Fernando Valley.

Doyle called Sherman's opposition to Ahmanson opportunism, noting that he has failed to kill the project. "If you're going to get behind something, you ought to be successful about it," he said.

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