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Sherman, Berman, Reed and Shelley Meet in First Debate

The two Democratic candidates for the 30th Congressional District seat join two Republican hopefuls in Woodland Hills.

The setting was an apt one for this first debate between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman at such a dire time for our economy: a vast, abandoned space, formerly Dick’s Sporting Goods, in the Westfield Promenade Mall in Woodland Hills, closed like so many businesses.

But on Thursday night it was packed with about 300 people, many more than expected, and it was a lively night.

Because of congressional redistricting, these two longtime Valley Democrats now are both competing for the same seat in the 30th District. Sponsored by the Woodland Hills/Tarzana Chamber of Commerce, this was the first public face-off in a campaign that is expected to be extremely costly for both men.

Also participating in the debate were two Republicans in the running, author and businessman Mark Reed.

It was a dynamic and often contentious debate, with Sherman and Berman repeatedly assailing each other, as Reed and tried, and often succeeded, in scoring points with the crowd.

In opening statements, Berman quickly surveyed his considerable accomplishments in Congress.

Sherman attacked him almost immediately for his support of the Iraq War resolution, which Berman said he signed based on “erroneous information” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Talking as if on the floor of the House, Sherman then went after Berman for his support of 2008's federal bank bailout program, known as TARP.

“My friend Howard talks about leadership,” he said. “It’s important that you lead in the right direction. I was a leader in an effort to stop the $700 billion bank bailout.” The crowd cheered. He added: “I’ve been a leader in stopping trade deals that send our jobs overseas.”

Sherman then described his campaign against Super PACs, displaying a big poster of his anti Super-PAC pledge, which he repeatedly raised and asked Berman to sign.

Berman,, declined.

Shelley and Reed repeatedly returned to Republican themes of less government, especially in regard to taxation. Shelley’s chief proposal was to replace our current tax code with a 5 percent flat tax, which she said would transform America.

“Think about it,” she said. “If we turn the U.S. into the greatest tax haven in the world, businesses from around the world will come here and hire people, and new businesses would start up. What would any of you do tomorrow if you knew you could keep 95 percent of everything you [make]? I think it’s time we stopped asking the government what it needs, and start telling the government what it can have.”

Shelley expressed doubt about the accuracy of recent reports of decreasing unemployment, as did Reed, who enumerated what he felt were the requirements for addressing joblessness.

“Real job growth will start when the government gets out of our way,” Reed said. “Real job growth will take place when Congress gets serious about the debt, gets serious about stopping the spending and borrowing, and the Federal Reserve stops printing money and devaluating our dollar.” The crowd responded with much applause, but their support waned quickly when he suggested that government benefits encouraged people not to work.

When Reed and Shelley both expressed their beliefs that less governmental regulation would be good for California, Berman reminded everyone that clean-air regulations have resulted in a better Los Angeles.

“Thirty years ago,” he said, “the smog was so thick in the Valley that you couldn’t see the mountains. It’s not that way anymore. Have you noticed how clear and beautiful these days have been? That is the direct result of regulations we put into place decades ago.”  

Both Berman and Sherman had a big contingent of support present, and each scored many points so that a victor could not be easily declared. Sherman received his most fervent response from the crowd when he spoke of the need to transform U.S. trade policies.

“If we’re gonna have jobs, we’ve got to change our trade policy,” he said to much applause and cheering. “We have an $800 billion trade deficit. That’s why we have to get away from NAFTA, and MFN [Most Favored Nation status] for China, and the South Korea Free Trade deal, and demand a system of balanced and fair trade. People ask over and over, ‘Where are the jobs?’ They’re in China.”

Limited time left no opportunity for the audience to ask questions, resulting in several interruptions by audience members attempting to be heard. Kwazi Nkruman, an activist with Occupy the Hood and Occupy L.A., repeatedly yelled out: “Occupy homes. Stop foreclosures.” He was asked by security to leave, which he did.

After the debate, audience members expressed mixed reactions. In a  longtime Democratic district, it was not surprising that for most, the choice appeared to come down to Berman or Sherman, both of whom have the loyalty of their constituents.

Terry Walcek, 87, who attended with her 91-year-old husband, summed up the sentiment of many in the crowd by saying, “I like Berman and Sherman. They’re both good men. I think it’s terrible that we have to lose one of them.”

You can read other accounts of the debate here:

Daily News: Reps. Howard Berman, Brad Sherman tangle in Woodland Hills public forum as they vie for same Congressional seat

L.A. Times: Berman, Sherman meet in first forum of hot congressional race

L.A. Weekly: In Debate, Brad Sherman Attacks Howard Berman on Iraq War, Trade and Super PACs

Sean McCarthy January 07, 2012 at 07:14 AM
I thought the event went off as well as I could have expected based on the comments I’ve received afterwards from members of the public and the candidates' and their staff. There were people who wished they could ask questions from the floor but here is the bottom line. We never would have had the chance to hear the candidates answer the wide variety of questions had the questions come from the floor. After all this was not a public event but a chamber of commerce function. The questions came from members of the Woodland Hills Tarzana Chamber of Commerce as well as my colleagues with the United Chambers of Commerce and represented the concerns of our members. I was surprised at the number of people who attended the Town Hall. I had expected maybe 200 but was impressed when the room filled with more than 400 individuals. Undoubtedly many were partisans as was reflected by the final tally from the straw poll. None the less I believe the candidates acquitted themselves nicely and a good time was had by all. A very special thanks to the Los Angeles Police Department, Westfield's who sponsored the event, Ruth's Cris Steak House for providing parking, the Corner Bakery for the refreshments and the Tarzana Neighborhood Council for the use of their sound system. Finally, a very special thank you to the staff of the Woodland Hills Tarzana Chamber without whom the event would not have been a success.
trojan2002 January 07, 2012 at 06:22 PM
right when i give you the least bit of credibility you take it away...."this was not a public event but a chamber of commerce function." SO will you now tell us how your chamber got to put on this function? Sherman in 2010 refused all invitations from Reed's camp for debates. The League of Conservation voters and another liberal leaning group hosted their only debates. That's Sherman's history. No one can deny he has been apprehensive about unsafe debates. Any why you didn't take questions from the audience... well Sherman doesn't work that way. They have to be written down and screened. You let Sherman have a platform for his stunts. I think that's what this event was all about.
Paul Zollo January 07, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Interesting response from Trojan below -Mr. McCarthy, is this so - did Sherman set any ground-rules? The phrasing of some of the questions - such as the one "In retrospect, was working on Health care a good idea instead of working on the financial crisis?" seemed rather skewed - after all, Health Care was established precisely to deal with the economic crisis - that was like a Fox-News framing of the issue. Why? Who chose the questions?
Sean McCarthy January 07, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Paul: Why didn't you ask me for a comment Thursday night? I spoke to the Times and the Daily News. Even the LA Weekly knew who I was and took the time to stop by. As for our question about framing of the questions, this was a chamber event and so chamber focused questions made up the majority of questions asked, You did not ask however who wrote this question: "Was the US sacrifice in Iraq, 4,500 US service men and women killed, tens of thousands wounded and almost a Trillion dollars spent, worth it in your opinion?" Did Fox News write that one Paul? No the Joe Gerrymandered asked me to ask that question on the Patch, January 2nd. Look it up. If you took the time to review m columns you would see that the Patch sadly generated few if any questions. Sorry your theory and Torjan2002 have been popped.
Sean McCarthy January 07, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Trojan2002: There is no convincing you that I am not in the tank for Sherman. As for the questions from the audience, I spoke to Mr. Berman's campaign staff at some length after the debate and let them know that we would reproduce all of the questions for all of the candidates to use as the wish. There was no time to sort through the questions, many of which were covered during the debate. If you think you can do a better job put on your own debate. As for me I'm done for this week. For all of you who showed us we thank you for taking the time to learn where the candidates stand and hope you will vote accordingly.
Paul Zollo January 07, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Mr. McCarthy, I apologize if you misunderstood my question. It was not MY theory, it was proposed by a reader - I was simply inquiring if Sherman set any ground rules, as Trojan suggested - which to me, frankly, seemed unlikely. I was interested in why the Health Care question was framed as it was, but I wasn't suggesting that every question asked was like that one. I also understood that you would have welcomed questions from the audience but time-limits imposed by the venue made that impossible. You chose not to have a break, which was a good idea. After the debate, I am sorry I didn't have the opportunity to ask you any questions. I spent that time interviewing members of the audience, including a few who attempted to interrupt the proceedings. I felt you handled those who attempted to hijack the event quite well, and I felt it was fair debate, an informative one, and certainly lively and engaging. You balanced the concerns of all the candidates and those in attendance fairly and deftly and did a fine job moderating what was a debate of unique dynamics. I hope my reporting didn't suggest otherwise. And I hope in the future I'll have a chance to speak to you directly.
Zookeeper91326 January 08, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I have attended Brad Sherman's Town Hall meetings. His authoritarian attitudes were not at all appealing. I have studied Berman's record, and find him equally distasteful. With the Valley deteriorating quickly, economically and aesthetically, and with the increase of crime, gangs, grafitti, and hit-and-run accidents (all due largely to the massive, continuing influx of illegal immigration, and the apparent disregard of citizens welfare), neither Sherman, nor Berman have the strength or integrity to address these problems. I will not be voting for any man or woman who will sacrifice citizens in favor of non-citizens, purely to obtain votes.
trojan2002 January 08, 2012 at 05:20 AM
I still want you to answer the question on how your chamber got brad sherman to participate. You have yet to address that question. WHY do you keep avoiding this question?
Sean McCarthy January 08, 2012 at 06:11 AM
When did you first ask that? Frankly in all of the confusion I can't remember if you ever asked me that before. I'll tell you though. Sherman came to us and we went back and forth between the two campaigns as well as Shelley and Reed and came up with January 5th. The answer to why they asked us is simple. The Sherman folks came to us because we are the big dog in the west valley. We have an extremely active government affairs committee and we advocate for or in oppose to a number of pieces of legislation ever year. But Trojan2002, why don't you call the folks at the Sherman campaign to ask them why they asked us to put on the first fact-to-face debate of the election season. They can answer your lingering questions.
AG January 08, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I good and open minded candidate, Mark Reed has been shut out of the election in previous years by the fearful Sherman machine. Mr. Reed needs to continue to participate. I speak from experience with Mr. Sherman. I am his constituant and I vote and I know the issues. For four years running, I tried and failed to speak to my Congressman at these public events. I tried to play by Sherman's Staff rules in his so-called OPEN Hometown Meeting Events. Those events are rigged or fixed so that he doesn't have too many hard-ball questions by people knowing the facts. His staff cherry pick the questioners and mostly the open question time is wasted by friendly business owners who got favors from the good Congressman. It was a sickening mutual admiration society to see. No public issues were solved, just self-serving glad handing of the good olde boys crowd in power. Sickening to see, hear and watch. My ticket number never came up and I was told to come back in 6 months, then 6 monthsmore, and more...till you get 4 years and give up. Then, I voted for Mark Reed, he's accessible and listens. Not like Mr. Sherman. I remember Mr Sherman being on an immigration traveling fact finding Congressional commission. I went there to speak. He was so close-minded to any one's ideas that testified in front of the commisssion and afterwards he publicly announced to media the very commission he was on a silly 'dog and pony show'. He is an expert in 'dog and pony' shows. 'trojan2002' is onto something.
trojan2002 January 08, 2012 at 06:10 PM
they asked you before or after you let him speak at your fall fest but refused to allow Berman the same privilege? I knew Sherman made the approach. And you're not the first organization they asked. AND you are not the big dog in the west valley. I can think of a handful of other organization that have real clout and credibility. Sean, Sherman's camp won't answer directly to anyone. They are vindictive assheads who know nothing about constituent services. They have been campaigning for 10 years. And like Zine, they favor anyone who kisses their ass. Something your organization did by hosting this event at his behest and by blackballing Berman at your fall fest by not letting him speak. Sherman barely covers Woodland Hills, they both represent Tarzana. I wonder why even Waxman wasn't invited when he is your current congressman... is it because he and Berman are close? Go back and read my comments from the start. I asked you off the bat about how you got this. And the answer is now clear- Sherman's camp came to you because Woodland Hills Tarzana Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Sherman.
Sean McCarthy January 08, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I am very happy that such a lively discussion has been spawned by the Town Hall in Woodland Hills. Please keep it going.
Momlee January 08, 2012 at 11:40 PM
When I see what the Obama administration and the democrats have done to our country and our state I chose to change my party affiliation. Sherman and Berman are just an extension of Obama and his lack of leadership and big spending ideas. Wake up people. If you really want jobs and growth in our state we have to get rid of the liberal/democrats. Higher taxes and big spending is totally out of the question. Brown and his pot head friends in Sacramento will continue to throw our tax dollars away and support illegals, as in the dream act and the unions who support them. Do you realize that 40% of our tax dollars goes toward pensions and benefits in the budget? Brown refuses to renegioate with the unions. The lies and fraud must be stopped. Keep voting the same lifetime politions in office and they will continue to rip us off. So many of our neighbors are settling for underpaid jobs because of regulations and the new Obama care coming down if not challenged by the supreme court. People are fleeing our state and closing their businesses. We used to be a place to attract people but not any longer. Do what you want but I will no longer support democrats. I learned my lesson.
Sean McCarthy January 09, 2012 at 04:56 PM
With all of the heat and fury centered on Howard Berman and Brad Sherman's candidacies I was wondering how many are considering Mark Reed or Susan Shelley as alternatives to the two incumbents? I ask this because there were a small but not insignificant group of people who attended and expressed an interest in these candidates as well.
Miki Henderson January 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Are you truly serious? The Republicans are the ones who need to go, they haven't let Obama do his job, and caused my stock to go down by their brinksmanship. The Obama health care plan will DECREASE the budget, if anyone really wants to pay attention to facts, and I can't wait for it to kick in to help ME with a preexisting condition. Republicans and teabaggers have destroyed our very vibrant post office system and they are destroying public schools. THEY are the ones who should be voted out and shamed for allowing tax breaks for millionnaires and oil companies.
trojan2002 January 09, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Miki- I would say Obama needs to go and the Dems need to take back the house and hold the Senate. he is the reason why your stocks went down, why a weak health care bill was passed, why weak financial overhaul bill was passed, why there is a deep level of partisan brinkmanship. The congress of 2007-2008 was much more effective than 2009-2010 because the Dems knew clearly what the WH would and would not do. Obama is an absent leader. He gives guidelines like he is a cablenews host. I also think you need a good mix of Republicans and Democrats in office to get the best laws. The country isn't 50/50 dems/repubs, they each have less than that. But we don't have a good mix because of the president, not because of congress.
AG January 09, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I voted for Mark Reed last time and will again. Read my previous post for why.
trojan2002 January 10, 2012 at 07:45 PM
sean I have another question for you.... since your organization is the "big dog" in the west valley and all, and you have an active government affairs committee maybe you can take the lead on this ethics issue. House aides are allowed to do political or campaign work, but “only outside congressional space, without the use of any House resources and on their own time,” the House Ethics Manual says. That's from a NYT Dec 2 2011 article. Did Matt Dabaneh call to set up the debate? Matt is Sherman's district director, earning $128,000 for that position. But he is also getting paid by the Sheman campaign to be a "consultant". At least John Alford was dropped from they payroll as a staffer on 8/1. Going back several years, other Sherman staffers got paid simultaneously from the campaign. So Sean, will you tell us who called you? It shouldn't have been any of the staffers because that would be violation. It doesn't matter if it was on their own time, the rule is OUTSIDE the congressional space. So now will you tell us the truth when you answer this question? does your organization still want to endorse a circus clown with dubious campaign/staff work? Why is Matt working on a congressional campaign? Why was John Alford up until 8/1? The answer is clear now though... the reason why his office is so bad at constituent services is because they run it as auxiliary campaign office.
Sean McCarthy January 10, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Trojan2002: I don't remember who contacted me first. You raise some interesting questions relating to the campaign so I'm not going to comment on them because I have not now nor will I endorse any candidate before the primary. I don't know what I will do after that. I do encourage you to continue to ask questions. Voters need to hear what you have to say. Unfortunately I don't have any answers for you. I will however, categorically deny that I have ever endorsed a circus clown. These and the other offices up for election in 2012 are critical for the future of California and the nation. We will be determining our country's future health and security. The people we elect will make laws that either frees us to be all we can be or force us to move to another state to achieve our dreams. This election is about who can inspire 99 weekers to give up waiting for the perfect job and get back to work. Right now we don't have the leadership we need to get us going again. That is why the Woodland Hills Tarzana Chamber hosted the Town Hall and why we will continue to do so in the future.
Andrew Wells January 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Berman, Sherman and who and who? Seriously?
Steve Johnson January 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Momlee has been watching too much Fox (faux) News & listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh & Sean Hanitty. But, as a life long valley resident, I can tell you BUSH and his cronie Republicans DESTROYED our economy in 8 years!! Where have you been Momlee? Dont you realize that the economic meltdown happened under BUSH!!! in 2007!! THATS when the markets crashed and the subprime house market impoded on itself. But, some of that blame gets to go Brad Sherman for voting for the REPEAL of the Glass-Steagall act of the 1930's (aka the Financial Services Modernization act of 2000). Brad Sherman has BIG backers in real estate, finance and banking. They are his LARGEST CONTRIBUTORS!! Thanks to people like Brad, the wall of separation that USED to exist between the banks and Wall St. since the last great depression was removed, so he could pay back his Real Estate, bank and Finance campaign contributors. And make no mistake about it, Brad Sherman has financially benefited from ALL of this. Him and Berman are soooooo lucky I didn't decide to run against him, because Brad doesn't represent the valley the way the valley should be represented. Momlee....you need to go and educate yourself regarding the facts. California is creating jobs faster than any other state in the union right now. Plus, we are one of the largest economies of the WORLD!! 7th if I'm not mistaken. We were looking 700,000 jobs A MONTH when Bush was leaving office in 2007. Unemployment #'s are going DOWN
Sean McCarthy January 12, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I have provided all of the written questions asked by attendees at the town hall to each of the candidates. I may include some of them in future blogs.
kenneth scalir January 13, 2012 at 11:02 PM
So when is the next debate. I see there is another Democrat running, Vince Gilmore. Also anotheer Republican is running, Navra Singh.
Sean McCarthy January 14, 2012 at 12:06 AM
There will be more debates and Mr. Gilmore as well as Mr. Singh should be invited. I don't know if there will be a replay of the debate in Woodland Hills unless the candidates agree. We hope they will. They were very gracious and accommodating. But now it is another communities turn to set a date to ask hard questions of all the candidates..

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