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Democrat vs. Democrat gets ugly, expensive -- and bipartisan?

September 12, 2012|By Patt Morrison
  • U.S. Congressman Howard Berman makes a point during a debate with Congressman Brad Sherman. They are running for California's 30th congressional district.
U.S. Congressman Howard Berman makes a point during a debate with Congressman… (Los Angeles Times )

Exactly what kind of election is it where Democrats will spend stupefying wads of money – about $7 million, by recent count -- to run against each other?

And now one of them has trotted out big-name Republicans to endorse him.

It’s just another iteration of California’s latest quirk of election rules of our own making.

This time, the state’s new top-two-finishers rule is pitting two veteran Democratic congressmen, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, against each other in a musical-chairs race for a single seat -- the 30th Congressional District.

It’s an election that L.A. Weekly described as a battle "to determine which bald, Jewish Democrat who voted for the Iraq war will continue to represent the San Fernando Valley in Congress.’’ 

Berman has just rolled some big artillery up to the firing line: the endorsements of two hawkish Republican senators and one independent.  Two have run on a national ticket, Arizona's John McCain for president in 2008, and Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman as a Democrat for V.P. in 2000. Lindsey Graham is a South Carolina Republican.

And Berman’s press release notes that all are "prominent Israel defenders.'' (Berman also got praise of a sort this spring from Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, a high-profile and highly controversial committee chairman who is often a thorn in President Obama's side.)

This looks to just about every pundit as a play to lay claim to moderate and Republican votes, with independent voters clocking in at 21% in the district.

But is there a risk of it backfiring with Democrats, who hold a 22% upper hand over Republicans in registration figures in the 30th?

(Let it be noted that both of California’s senators, its governor and most of its congressional Democrats have already endorsed Berman.)

This triple endorsement says volumes about how intense this congressional election is, when you consider that the old saying in the House of Representatives is that the other party may be your opponent, but the Senate is the enemy.

And now to the meta-question: Why do we not see a lot more evidence of bipartisanship like this every single day on Capitol Hill, and not just weeks before an election?

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