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'Sparks' and 'Sharp Blows' Fly as Berman, Sherman, Reed Debate

The fight for the 30th Congressional District heated up before an overflow crowd at Temple Judea in Tarzana Tuesday night.

Temple Judea in Tarzana played host to a key debate Tuesday evening between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman and Republican candidate Mark Reed. The event was organized by the Jewish Journal, streamed live online, and moderated by Jonah Lowenfeld, who writes the Berman v. Sherman blog for the Journal.

About 800 people attended the event, organizers said, with the crowd filling the synagogue's 500-seat sanctuary and the rest standing or watching in a side room.

Republican candidate Susan Shelly was not invited to participate.

Topics included foreign policy issues such as how the United States and Israel should deal with Iran's nuclear program; national issues such as the Obama administration's recent policy statement on contraception and the candidates' stances on super PACs; and local topics such as the legality of marijuana in Los Angeles and Sen. Barbara Boxer's recent endorsement of Berman.

Berman, who had three super PACs and now has two, said that he "supported a constitutional amendment to overturn" the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed them, and added that he had no control over the super PACs set up in his name, "... none of which I coordinate with." He called Sherman's offer to sign a pledge rejecting super PAC money "a gimmick."

Sherman rebuffed Berman, saying, "Howard, you can’t have your super PAC and eat it too."

When asked by the moderator to share their views on medical marijuana (Patch recently reported that the city is considering a 'gentle ban' on pot shops), Reed said he agreed with its use for medical purposes, but that dispensaries were often misused as places in which "you get stoned."

Berman cautioned that medical marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana were two distinct issues that were in danger of becoming conflated.

"People that have illnesses that need treatment should be able to get it. Don’t confuse decriminalization with that," Berman said.

Sherman said he agreed with the legalization of medical marijuana and, with the proper zoning, its dispensaries. It should, he said, be considered for medical use only: "Not, oh gee, I've got an itch on my forehead and I'd like my weed," he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported on how "sparks flew" between Berman and Sherman:

"... [T]he candidates,  seasoned veterans who found their homes drawn into the same San Fernando Valley congressional district during last year's redistricting, managed to lob zingers at each other while defending their positions on foreign trade agreements and efforts to halt piracy of music and movies.

The most contentious issue in the forum ... concerned so-called "super PACs," through which corporations are allowed to donate unlimited amounts to  elect or defeat candidates, so long as they don't coordinate their activities with the candidates' campaigns."

Joel Fox, who writes about business and politics on his Fox & Hounds blog, likened the face-off between the two Democrats to a boxing match between two heavyweights. Fox, a political consultant, said Reed "was on the scene, too, and he got in a few sharp blows."

The debate was also a topic Wednesday morning on KPCC's Madeline Brand Show, in which reporter Frank Stoltze played a few interviews he had with Jewish voters who attended the Tuesday night event. 

Bonnie Bernstein March 01, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I was also at the debate and I agree with the comment that all Sherman seemed to offer was lame jokes. Howard Berman is a serious leader. His work on the sanctions and on piracy laws is exactly the kind of leadership we need in Washington. Sherman seems to enjoy the spotlight of being in Congress but not the hard work that the job requires. The debate seemed like a serious thinker and leader in Berman vs. a petty snarky politician in Sherman As far as the money issue in the campaign, its just more of the same hypocrisy and lack of truth telling by Sherman. Its easy to say "lets sign a pledge" when you have over 3 million in the bank that you have been raising for years.
AG March 12, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I have been to many Sherman anything events. Sherman is a dyed & true Democratic party 'Hack' (just like Mayor Tony V locally) and Sherman is an arrogant snob towards his employers, the voters. He tries to belittle opponents with inuendo, when he is the biggest 'dog & pony' show actor on the Govt scene in recent years. His townhall meetings are fixed by his sycophantic staffers so Sherman only wastes time on 'pap' issues only talking to his local large business supporters & cronie contributers. Berman is just as bad. Mark Reed is the only person who shows he knows whats going on in this district and reacts to it sincerely. Use some infectant and soap to clean up the current encumbants, vote the rascals out! Check out & support Mark Reed for Congress NOW.
bilko April 30, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Was the question asked of how often each Congressman comes home on weekends to meet with their constituency? I would guess Sherman.
Skraeling May 02, 2012 at 08:14 PM
both should go...but, there is no sane alternative. They represent what is wrong with American politics today....30 years is far too long for anyone to be in government.....and we wonder why nothing changes for the better? Look at whom we vote for, over and over, for no reason other than the other person is worse...Or, are they? We will never know..
Skraeling May 02, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Sanctions? puleeeze....America has large issues that must be dealt with..Israel is not our problem...and should never have been....

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