U.S. Congress members Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are campaigning for one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on the November ballot after redistricting pitted the two San Fernando Valley Democrats against each other.
The two incumbent candidates were formerly in separate districts. Now, California voters must decide which tenured official will hold the 30th District seat.
In the wake of various state and federal propositions involving redistricting, Proposition 20 was approved by voters in 2010, giving the Citizens Redistricting Commission rights to determine California’s district lines, according to Aubrey Farkas, a staff assistant for Sherman’s campaign.
During the primary vote on June 5, the top two vote-getters out of seven running in the district advanced to the Nov. 6 ballot. Berman and Sherman came out on top of the election with a combined 75 percent of the votes. Sherman came out ahead with 42.4 percent, while Berman polled 32.5 percent.
On Thursday, the congressmen debated on several hot-button issues that led to a face-to-face confrontation in an auditorium full of howling students and community members at Pierce College.
The heated confrontation arose toward the end of the debate, during a disagreement over Berman’s leadership on the DREAM Act. Berman, who was standing up, said he introduced the bill to Congress and called Sherman delusional for saying otherwise.
Sherman then stood up from his seat and yelled into the microphone that Luis Gutierrez, a representative from Illinois, had introduced the bill.
Sherman then wrapped his arm around his opponent’s shoulder and while staring him in the eyes said, “You want to get into this? Get out of my face!”
A member of the sheriff’s department and the moderator intervened and pointed the congressmen to their seats.
Ben Fishel, press secretary at Sherman’s campaign, said he has never seen a debate get so heated.
Besides discussing their stance on immigration, Sherman and Berman also answered questions about student loans, an important issue to students like Daniel Sassoon, 20, a junior at Pierce majoring in business, and a Sherman supporter.
“I agreed with Sherman’s views more than the other candidate’s. Overall he seemed like a better and stronger candidate” said Sassoon.
Sherman enacted the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will extend a $2,500 tuition tax credit to qualifying students. He also enacted loan forgiveness programs for recent graduates.
Berman has been a supporter of decreasing student loan rates, as evidenced in a statement he issued after the Senate and House approved a bipartisan bill that prohibits college student loan interest from doubling.
Obamacare care was also addressed during the debate. Both agreed that it was a major step forward.
Sherman has been in congress since 1997; Berman since 1983. For the upcoming election, Berman and Sherman are standing by largely congruent platforms, but each congressman is approaching the topics from different perspectives.
“Two incumbent U.S. Congressmen are forced to face each other in the upcoming election. Either way, this area will lose an experienced and senior representative in Washington,” said Martin Saiz, a professor of political science at CSUN.
Many students are still deciding how they will vote with two Democratic nominees vying for the single congressional seat.
Brooke Kier, a senior English major said that she has no problem with two Democrats running for the same seat because she is a Democratic voter. Kier said she would need more time to do research before deciding which incumbent she will vote for.