Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman are vying for voters… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
If the spectacle of two career Democrats going at it over bragging rights to Republican support seems odd, blame it on California's new election system.
The June primary sent the top two vote-getters to the November election, producing several same-party contests in which candidates are vying for voters outside their own party.
The competition for that unusual support has reached ferocious proportions in the high-profile clash between seasoned Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. The onetime allies have been battling over a San Fernando Valley congressional seat since new political maps last year put their homes into the same district.
Earlier this week, Berman, who finished 10 points behind top vote-getter Sherman in the seven-candidate primary, trotted out endorsements from Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The senators said they liked Berman because he could garner bipartisan support to get things done.
Sherman said it was because Berman had gone along with their hawkish stance on Iraq. And on Wednesday, Sherman unveiled a list of local Republican officeholders who are backing him because of what he has done to help Valley constituents. He named Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita and L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, among others.
Reiterating in a written statement his view that the senators had applauded Berman's "early efforts" to give President George W. Bush "the full authority to invade Iraq," Sherman said he was "proud to have the endorsement of every Republican elected official who lives in or near the San Fernando Valley."
Not three hours later, the Berman campaign released its own — longer — list of local GOP officeholder supporters, including Reps. Ed Royce of Fullerton and Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and county Supervisor Mike Antonovich. The Berman campaign also pointed out that Sherman too had voted to go to war with Iraq.
"Democrats and Republicans are supporting Howard because he is the Valley's workhorse," Berman campaign strategist Brandon Hall said in a statement released with the GOP supporters list.
And in case unaffiliated voters might feel left out, each candidate also produced an independent elected official — Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman for Berman and L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine for Sherman.