Tuesday’s election marked the end of a career for an icon of southern California Democratic Party politics. After a race marked by intense attacks from both sides, fifteen-term Congressman Howard Berman lost to fellow Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman in the newly drawn 30th District in the western San Fernando Valley.
“Brad Sherman will be the next Congressman from the 30th Congressional District. I congratulate Brad,” Berman said in a concession statement issued in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. “I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition.”
At an election night party at a Mediterranean restaurant in Encino, Sherman acknowledged he toppled a once unbeatable politician who was a prominent voice on U.S.-Israel relations and a go-to representative for the entertainment industry.
“I think Howard Berman’s 40 years of service ought to be commended,” Sherman said of his opponent, who was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1972. Voters elected him to Congress in 1982.
“I did not want to run against Howard Berman,” Sherman said. “He has a record that I know he is very proud of, and it’s a record I tend to agree with.”
Sherman, 57, and Berman 71, were thrust into the same district after the state’s independent redistricting commission created a new Latino district in the eastern San Fernando Valley. Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas easily won that seat.
Both Sherman and Berman refused to move to another district. Prominent Democratic Party leaders had urged Sherman to defer to the senior Berman by moving to a Ventura County district. Everyone from Governor Brown to virtually the entire California Democratic congressional delegation back Berman.
Sherman said he won on the issues – he opposed the 2008 economic bailout package, Berman supported it. Voters in this new district were also more familiar with him – about half of the 30th district overlaps with his old district.
Another advantage for Sherman: he loves attending community events, shaking hands with constituents. Berman prefers working the levers of power from Washington D.C., which made him less familiar to voters at home.
The race was one of the most expensive in the country – the two sides spent well over $10 million. It often turned bitter, with Sherman and Berman shouting at each other and Sherman physically grabbing Berman at one debate.
The race fractured the Jewish community, as it witnessed two of its most prominent elected leaders blast each other.
“I actually know a lot of people who decided not to vote in this race,” said Sherman supporter Annette Krakowsky of Studio City, “They were so upset by how badly both candidates behaved.”
Krakowsky's husband said they lived in Berman’s district for years, and always voted for him. But when forced to make a choice, they went with Sherman.
“There comes a time when the old guard has to move aside and let some younger people come in,” said Steven Krakowsky.
Others lamented the loss of Berman, who for so long seemed unbeatable.
Berman is in a league of his own. He is wise,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “It’ll be a great loss to the country. It’ll be a great loss to Los Angeles County.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seconded Yaroslavsky: "There is no question that losing Howard Berman is a blow to L.A., and that’s no knock on Brad Sherman – it’s just a fact.”