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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Round Two: Congressmen Howard Berman, Brad Sherman on KPCC (Video)

Congressman Brad Sherman swings his arm around Congressman Howard Berman during a debate Thursday night, October 11 in the San Fernando Valley.
Congressman Brad Sherman swings his arm around Congressman Howard Berman during a debate Thursday night, October 11 in the San Fernando Valley. YouTube/Howard Berman

Four days after an angry physical confrontation at Pierce College, Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman face off in a debate on KPCC Monday (Scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on AirTalk).

Last Thursday, Sherman, 57, suggested Berman, 71, had initiated the clash, which was videotaped, when he moved to his side of the stage and waved a finger in Sherman’s face. One witness said it was Sherman who appeared “out of control” when he swung his arm around Berman with enough force to make him wobble.

(See the video below.)

“It was Brad who was the one who lunged at Howard,” said Jewish Journal Reporter Jonah Lowenfeld, who is closely following the congressional race. “Howard may have been a little closer to Brad than Brad wanted. But Brad was certainly the one who upped it.”

“This was not a wise or carefully considered action,” Sherman later told KPCC.

Ever since he finished first in the June primary, Sherman has held a double-digit lead over Howard Berman in the race for the 30th Congressional District in the Western San Fernando Valley. That’s largely because Sherman’s old district overlaps more with the new district in which he’s competing with Berman.

Berman’s camp hopes the kerfuffle will raise questions about Sherman’s temperament.

“Brad Sherman loses his mind and acts like a bully,” Brandon Hall, senior advisor to Berman, said last week.

Political Scientist Raphe Sonenshein, who heads the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State Los Angeles, said it could affect the race.

“It’s such an odd thing,” said Sonenshein.

Sonenshein said he has an idea why the race between the two longtime Democratic Congressmen has gotten so bitter.

“They agree on almost everything, which sometimes makes it more personal,” he said.

Berman’s claim that he authored the “Dream Act” triggered last week’s clash.  Sherman took exception to it.

“The records of Congress show otherwise,” Sherman said.

Sherman’s been frustrated with Berman’s claim that he is a more effective congressman because he’s authored more legislation. Sherman thought he’d turn the tables.

But Berman co-authored the 2001 Student Adjustment Act, a precursor to became the Dream Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Immigrant rights activists came to Berman’s defense after the debate. 

“Brad Sherman has a perfectly respectable record on immigration” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.  “But when it comes to who is our champion, who is our go-to guy in Congress, there is no one that comes close to Howard Berman in terms of longevity and support.”

One version of “Dream Act” would have allowed illegal immigrants under 30-years-old who came with their parents to the U.S. as children to obtain legal permanent residency.

It passed the U.S. House in 2010, but failed to win a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.

Earlier this year, President Obama issued an administrative directive that offers young undocumented immigrants “deferred departure,” which essentially protects them deportation for two years.

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