Rep. Brad Sherman topped Rep. Howard Berman by 10 points, 42 percent to 32 percent, in a member-versus-member race that pitted two liberal Los Angeles Democrats against each other. Berman had been the favorite going in, but it’s not the final chapter: Thanks to California’s jungle primary system, the two will both advance to the general election.
Berman and Sherman were shoehorned into the same seat after the latest round of redistricting, producing one of the most closely watched primary races of the election cycle. Berman, 71, is best known for his work on foreign policy as a fixture of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Sherman, 57, also serves. Berman was elected in 1982; Sherman in 1996. The newly redrawn district contains more of Sherman’s old district than Berman’s.
The race has drawn enough money and national attention to make it arguably the most hotly contested House race of the 2012 cycle. Sherman has taken a populist tack and tried to portray Berman as a Washington insider, contrasting his own town halls with his opponent’s trips abroad as part of his work on international affairs. Berman has gone after Sherman as all flash and no substance, arguing his superior experience should make him the voters’ choice.
Though Sherman was dealt the better hand redistricting-wise, Berman is the senior lawmaker and garnered more support from fellow politicians and even celebrities. California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Berman, along with California’s Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Olympian Rafer Johnson cut an ad for Berman, as did actress and animal rights activist Betty White. The San Fernando Valley district also includes part of Hollywood. Sherman countered Berman’s high profile endorsements by claiming more local support.
“We always knew this was going to be a tough fight and our campaign will have the resources to take on my opponent and his dismal record,” Berman said in a statement after the primary, describing himself as the underdog in a district full of Sherman supporters. “Brad has continuously distorted my record and taken credit for things that I delivered for the Valley. No more.”
Thus far, the two former allies have spent $5.5 million on the race.
Pema Levy contributed to this post.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.