Rep. Howard Berman hasn’t had to fight for a job since Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern and M*A*S*H made its television debut.
That was 1972, when he won a state Assembly seat in his first race. Now the 70-year-old Democrat and House veteran, one of California’s most enduring politicians, is girding for a potentially bruising battle with a congressional colleague.
New voting maps, drawn for the first time by a citizens commission instead of behind closed doors by self-interested lawmakers, melded Berman’s San Fernando Valley district with that of Rep. Brad Sherman, 56, also a Democrat. Neither is yielding the ground, to the consternation of party leaders.
“It’s never healthy when you have two Democratic congressmen running against each other,” said state Democratic Party chief John L. Burton, a former state lawmaker and congressman.
The intraparty fight will siphon resources that could be used to defend vulnerable Democratic seats or capture marginally Republican ones, he said.
Well, Brad Sherman could move to Thousand Oaks and take on GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly in CA-26. But, the CA-26 would involve general election risk.
Neither man has an attractive choice outside the new 30th District. Neighboring districts, one more Republican and the other largely Latino, don’t fit either lawmaker nearly as well as the mostly white, liberal one they both live in (Berman resides in Valley Village, Sherman in Sherman Oaks).
“This is going to be a very hard-fought campaign, and I don’t see either candidate blinking,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican consultant who publishes the nonpartisan California Target Book assessing state races.
As, I said, it gives me great joy to see a costly Democratic Primary election in the California top two environment, knowing that one of these long-time left-wing Democrat Congressmen will be retired in 2012.