The Madeleine Brand Show for February 13, 2012

Competition over LA congressional seat turns ugly

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Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.


Political wrangling over the federal budget is set to continue. President Obama has sent Congress a new budget that the White House says will boost spending in the short term to pump up the economy. The administration says its spending outline attacks the deficit over the longer term, reducing red ink by more than half over five years.

As expected, Republicans immediately rejected the plan. Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, co-chair of the Super Committee that failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan, issued criticism of the plan. House Republicans will propose their budget plan sometime in the spring.

With both sides offering competing visions for government spending, many Democrats and Republicans think the issue may be decided by a lame duck Congress after the November elections. Meanwhile, a big election battle here in Los Angeles took a nasty turn this weekend.

The battle between Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman intensified this week as a result of redistricting that means the two are now running for the same Congressional seat. On Saturday, at the state Democratic convention in San Diego, both tried to lock up the endorsement of the party.

Host Madeleine Brand speaks to KQED's Sacramento Bureau chief John Myers, who describes this race as a "knife fight," a battle akin to the animosity between the Corleones and Tattaglias. At the heart of the issue are the similarities between the two men. Both are veterans of Congress. Both are Jewish in a district with many Jewish voters, and both wanted the party to give them its blessing.

While conventional wisdom held that Sherman had more support among the party insiders, both candidates fell short of gaining the official Democratic party endorsement. And given the increasingly vicious nature of the campaign, some people are even saying a Republican candidate could knock one of the two titans out of the race, although this seems unlikely given the constituency of the two Democrats.

According to the new rules taking effect for the next election in June, the top two candidates will move on to the November contest. And that means the Berman-Sherman fight could take place twice within five months. It is expected to be the most expensive congressional race in the nation.


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