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U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) lost his shot at a top House committee position after a Super PAC campaign mailer ruffled fellow Democrats' feathers.
The leading Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee is Howard Berman. After his defeat in the November election and the retirement of the number two Democrat, Brad Sherman was positioning himself for a run at the job.
The Sherman/Berman race split California Democrats on Capitol Hill. San Bruno Congresswoman Jackie Speier threw a fundraiser for Howard Berman; she says his defeat left her “heartbroken.” She said she couldn't possibly support Brad Sherman as ranking member of Foreign Affairs.
Speier says the last straw was a mailer from a political action committee that called itself Californians for Integrity in Government. It depicted Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, and Barbara Boxer and said they all want you to vote for Howard Berman. Then the mailer lists Sherman’s GOP endorsements.
Speier says the mailer targeting fellow Democrats was aimed at Republicans. "Do we eat our young, now?" she asked. "Is that the name of the game?"
San Jose Democrat Zoe Lofgren says the mailer did more than just demonize liberal Democrats, it was "trying to stigmatize people because they were born in one race or they were born gay or because they’re female, those aren’t Democratic Party values." Lofgren says there must be tactics “beyond the pale” for Democrats.
An increasing number of fellow Democrats from California say they couldn’t support someone from their own delegation as ranking member.
The battle came to a head Friday morning as members met on the House floor for their last vote before the Thanksgiving recess. Brad Sherman handed Zoe Lofgren a “dear colleague” letter expressing regret about the mailer, saying Sherman "did everything possible to keep SuperPACs out" of the race. He says he neither controlled, approved or even knew about the mailer.
Lofgren says he then told her he was no longer seeking the ranking member position.
Friday afternoon, Sherman dropped out of the race, endorsing the odds-on favorite for the position of ranking member, New York Congressman Eliot Engel. Unlike Sherman, Engel had a relatively easy re-election battle, and he spent the fall lobbying colleagues for their vote.
The vote for leadership positions is scheduled for later this month.