“So I ask myself,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, “how do you get out of this?”
The veteran Westside congressman was talking about how to avoid a battle in the San Fernando Valley between his friend Rep. Howard Berman and Rep, Brad Sherman for the 30th congressional district created by the state reapportionment commission. The commission gave Berman’s old district a Latino majority to create a Latino seat in the Valley. The commissioners moved Berman into the new 30th with Sherman. The percentage of Latino voters in that district is 16 percent.
Waxman had called me to complain about my Jewish Journal column on the race in which I wrote that the only way a Berman-Sherman fight could be avoided was “if one or the other made the suicidal choice of moving to another nearby district, which neither would have much of a chance of winning.”
It so happens that the choice I termed as “suicidal” was precisely the choice Waxman has in mind—Sherman pulling out of the 30th District race and running in a Ventura County district, some of which he has represented in the past. The new district, with no incumbent, is 42 percent Democratic and 35 percent Republican.
It’s not suicidal at all, Waxman said. President Barack Obama carried the area by double digits, he said, and Gov. Jerry Brown lost it by just one point in his election campaign, He estimated Sherman’s campaign war chest at $4 million. Rather than have Sherman and Berman spend up to $10 million between them Waxman would like Sherman to use his money to win the Ventura County seat and give the Democrats another seat in the House. “He would be doing a great service to the Democrats,” Waxman said. He conceded it is “not a great Democratic district, but the well-funded Sherman could win it.
“If we have this race between two Jewish Democrats, it is not because of Howard, it is because Brad chooses it,” Waxman said Sherman, he said, “could do the party a favor, he could do the Jewish community a favor and keep himself in Congress without this unnecessary battle.” He said, “I would like to see both of them returned to Congress”, but if there is a contest, he supports Berman.
Sherman doesn’t seem to value such advice. He is lining up endorsements, distributing polling results that he says show him ahead, working the grassroots and energetically communicating news of all this to the media.
Meanwhile, Sherman found himself under heavy fire for recommending that President Barack Obama appoint former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante ambassador to India. The criticism came from journalists ranging from my LA Observed colleague John Schwada to the Sacramento Bee editorial board. The Bee in an editorial said Sherman ‘just earned himself place in the Pandering Politician Hall of Fame” by backing Bustamante in an effort to influence “large numbers” of Latino voters in the district. Actually, the Bee overstated the numbers of Latinos in the district,
Sherman told me “he proposed Bustamante on the suggestion of “Indo-American organizations in my district.” He said he “did this early in the spring” before he knew he would be in such a tight race. Sherman said he supported Bustamante when he ran for governor, and Bustamante is backing him over Berman. Traditionally, he said, the ambassador to India is a not a diplomat, but someone important in the political or business world.
“I suppose Brad feels it will help him with Hispanics,” commented Waxman.