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The Battle to Bring Home the Bacon in the 30th CD

Monday, July 30th, 2012

There’s nothing kosher about the intraparty election in the 30th Congressional District between Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, as a 15-term Washington macher fights for survival against a seven-term nudnik known mostly for holding town hall meetings.

To hear Parke Skelton, Sherman’s consultant, tell it, the race is all but over. Sherman won the June primary 42-32%. He won his old CD 49-25%. And while Berman won his old CD 49-32%, Sherman won by 41-29% in parts of the new district represented by neither congressman.

Here’s Skelton’s analysis:

“Berman is going to have a lot of trouble making up this gap.  If he is counting on Republicans, a large number of Republicans have already picked between the two — 35% of the total vote was Republican, but the three Republican candidates combined received only 22% of the vote.  Some number of that 22% will skip the race, meaning Berman will have to win the remaining Republicans by a better than 3-to-1 margin in order to reach parity with Sherman.”

But, as Calbuzz explained back in January, Berman’s people knew going in that because Sherman has represented the bulk of the new 30th CD in the past, Berman’s best hope was to come in second in the primary and rally in the November runoff. (Also, to keep getting stuff done, as in the signing of a bill granting $70 million to Israel for its “iron dome” missile defense system — a bill authored by Barbara Boxer and, oh yeah, Howard Berman.)

November, the Berman camp argues, is a whole new game, with a vastly different electorate and, importantly, a different campaign.

For example: Sherman pulled 40,589 votes (according to the Secretary of State) and Berman got 31,086 – that’s a difference of just 9,503 votes in June But four Republicans and another Democrat drew 24,158 votes – 2.5 times the margin between Sherman and Berman. Moreover the total vote for candidates in the 30th CD represented just 26% of registered voters. The November presidential election will bring a lot more voters into play.

Although Berman had twice as many California Democratic Party delegates at the recent executive board endorsement vote, neither candidate was able to win the official imprimatur of the party. But when it comes to party leaders – like Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown and the vast majority of elected officials — Berman is the hands-down leader. To translate that into votes, however, is another challenge.

Same with using status to raise money. In the most recent financial report, Sherman had more cash on hand – about $3 million, compared to $446,000 for Berman. But Sherman has been goosing his checkbook with personal loans to his campaign, including another $450,000 in June. And Berman has no trouble raising money.

Michael Berman 86ed: Key to the ongoing election is that Berman’s brother Michael, who never believed in polling and managed strategy and message with his old-school iron fist, has been ousted after 30 years of managing his brother’s campaigns. In his place are Brandon Hall, the guy who saved Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s bacon in Nevada; the Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz polling firm and unpaid LA communications maven Donna Bojarsky.

Their first salvo – seeking to define Sherman to voters — is a new website titled BradShermanFacts.com, or as the Berman campaign calls it in their news release, the BS Report. The first installment made the point that, according to Hall, “The lack of legislative accomplishments Rep. Brad Sherman can point to is shocking and Valley residents deserve better. He’s been in Congress for nearly two decades and has passed just three pieces of legislation – and two of them named post offices.”

Of course, unless the Berman campaign can get eyeballs on their web site (and their message), it’s all for naught. Look for the Berman campaign to send out post cards to voters saying something like, “For a good time, check out bradshermanfacts.com.”

If they do, they’ll find a December 2011 internal memo from Sherman in which he tells his staff:

It’s been standing policy in our office to bring to my attention for possible co-sponsorship, every bill that passes the committee as soon as it passes that committee if it passes with significant Democratic vote or on a voice vote.

Sometimes this can be more effectively done by just looking at bills that are scheduled for mark-up and calling the relevant minority staff and asking which bills will have Democratic support.

Berman calls this “leading from behind.” Absurd, Skelton told the LA Times. The memo merely “states that Congressman Sherman wants his staff to continue a long-standing policy of identifying good bipartisan legislation that he can assess and decide whether to co-sponsor and work to pass on the floor.”

We just call it smarmy, like claiming credit you’re not due for adding a lane to the 405 or Photoshopping your mom out of a photo, depending on whether it’s in a mailer for gentiles or Jews.