Jewish Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman were headed for a face-off in the November general election after the two congressmen finished as the top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary.
Sherman led with 42% of the vote, compared to 32% for Berman, with five other candidates, including three Republicans, trailing far behind.
Under California’s new “jungle” primary system, candidates from all parties compete in the primary, with the top two earning spots on the general election ballot.
It’s the first time in recent memory that two incumbents from the same party have run against each other in a primary, not to mention two bald Jewish pro-Israel Democrats.
Turnout was high for a primary at an estimated 30%.
The unusual race was the result of redistricting which merged the two San Fernando Valley-based districts represented by the lawmakers into one.
Closely watched across the country, the Berman-Sherman contest has presented a painful choice for many Jews, including district voters locally and campaign donors nationally, who are being forced to choose between two strong Israel supporters with similar legislative records.
While Sherman was able to line up grassroots endorsements across the Valley, Berman’s 30-year congressional tenure has earned him high-ranking boosters from the state Democratic establishment to the White House. Hollywood has also turned out for Berman, a proponent of intellectual property rights issues crucial to the entertainment and media industries.
Campaign spending has been intense, with Berman topping Sherman by a 2:1 margin ($3.9 million vs. $1.8 million).
But that was only for the primary, which amounted to a beauty contest between the two frontrunners. Sherman’s war chest for the November election tallies $2.1 million more cash than Berman’s and both are expected to pour more dollars into the effort.
Berman and his wife Janis cast their votes early in the morning at Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Valley Village, later watching returns with supporters at campaign headquarters in Encino.
“We always knew this was going to be a tough fight” said Berman at the end of the day, “and our campaign will have the resources to take on my opponent and his dismal record.”
Sherman spoke to supporters at his post-election celebration at The Gate To The Mediterranean restaurant in Encino.
“You are here at a victory party that is a preparation for a victory party in November,” he proclaimed.
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Rex Weiner is a Brooklyn-born, third-generation journalist who from 1992 to 1997 covered the entertainment industry as a staff reporter for Daily Variety, where his column, Lost and Found, appeared weekly. His articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Observer and LA Weekly, and he contributes regularly to Rolling Stone Italia. His screenwriting credits include “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” (20th Century Fox), and he was one of the first writers of the TV series “Miami Vice.” He is a founding editor of High Times magazine and a co-author of The Woodstock Census (Viking, 1979), one of the key texts analyzing the impact of the ’60s generation on American society. He is currently based in Los Angeles and in the town of Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, where his fluent Spanish and capacity for tequila come in handy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.