When it comes to politics, California Rep. Brad Sherman and California Rep. Howard Berman usually agree.
Problem is, with their newly re-drawn districts, the two Democrat lawmakers are being forced to find mud to throw at each other.
Berman and Sherman have already been battling it out in anticipation for their district's primary, but the June 5 election is more of a warm-up drill for the big game.
Under California's newly adopted top-two system, the two candidates who earn the most votes in the primary, regardless of party, will wind up on the general election ticket. It is expected in the left-leaning San Fernando Valley that Berman's and Sherman's names will be right alongside each other on the general election ballot in November.
And unlike the presidential nominees, who offer a stark contrast on policy views, these candidates are more alike than they are different.
On June 5, voters will likely elect two Jewish Democrats with liberal views on immigration, abortion, and healthcare. Both candidates voted against ground troops in Libya, for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and against cutting funding to National Public Radio.
To make things tougher for voters, Berman's and Sherman's names rhyme, something Rep. Berman says has become a real issue on the campaign trail. [In New York's 27th, a Fierce Primary Battle Rages.]
"I was speaking at a senior home, and they introduced me wrong," Berman joked. "People have heard Sherman and Berman's names proceeded by the word 'congressman' for a long time around here."
So how exactly do you try and set yourself apart from an opponent who's views are the same and whose name even sounds like yours? Money, that's how.
The candidates are raising a lot of it in an effort to stand out, a combined $5 million so far.
Campaign finance reports show Berman spent roughly $3,410,700 and Rep. Brad Sherman dished out more than $2,139,000 in the primary race for California's 30th.
The entertainment industry, which employees more than 140,000 people in the 30th district, has provided a major fundraising boost for Berman, while realtors, accountants, and lawyers are among Sherman's biggest donors.
The new district is made up of pieces of both Sherman and Berman's old districts, but more than half of the 30th district is comprised of Sherman's constituents, a disadvantage Berman's campaign is well aware of.
"We have had to introduce his record to large parts of the newly drawn 30 that he hasn't represented before," says Berman campaign spokesman Zack Tupper.
In an effort to increase name identification, Tupper said the campaign has led a strategic face-to-face campaign.
"We are knocking on 2,000 doors a day," Tupper says. "We are leading a really aggressive campaign for a primary, not leaving anything on the field."
Berman's campaign is also finishing up an "accomplishment tour" where the Congressman travels around the district, showing off his record as an effective leader in Congress.
"Yes, they have voted the same on a lot of things," Tupper says. "But that doesn't spell out the key difference. Congressman Berman doesn't just vote for legislation, he rolls up his sleeves and makes it. He has authored 18 bills that have become laws. Congressman Sherman has authored three bills that have become law."
Sherman, who has served 14 years less than Berman, argues that some of the most pressing work he has done at the Capitol, was stopping legislation not passing it.
"The most important thing I did in Congress was to fight against the Wall Street bailout. You don't get your name on a bill that you try and stop," Berman said in response.
The Sherman campaign released an internal poll in April showing in a two-man race, Sherman was leading in the district 52 percent to 25 percent. More than 20 percent of voters in the Feldman Group poll reported they were still on the fence.
The race for the state's 30th congressional district has prompted some big-name endorsements although it is hard to say who has racked up the most impressive A-list supporter.
Rep. Brad Sherman has the distinguished endorsement of former President Bill Clinton, but 90-year-old Actress Betty White did appear in a commercial for Rep. Howard Berman.
Berman says in the general election, his campaign will work to distinguish himself on the difference between his record on Iraq and Afghanistan and the TARP Bailout, which he opposed and Berman supported. But no matter what happens Berman compares winning the primary next Tuesday will be sort of like winning the Ames Straw Poll.
"It's a good show of strength," he says.
"The June 5 outcome will be relatively close," Berman says. Joking he added, "if I do well, I will say it is the most important thing in the world, and if it is close, I will say it is not the most important thing in the world."
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