Congressman’s Dilemma: Two Veteran Democrats Drawn Into Same California District

It’s something of a prisoner’s dilemma, and the surest sign yet that the independent California Citizens Redistricting Committee didn’t take into account politics when deciding on new district boundaries. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, two long-serving Jewish Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Berman is the ranking minority member), have been drawn into the same district.

Either man could avoid facing the other in a primary by running instead in a neighboring heavily Hispanic district, but it’s in neither man’s best interest to do so. Instead, they’ve both laid their claim to the new district and seem headed for a bloody primary battle. And it probably won’t end with the primary, since California’s new primary system allows the two candidates with the greatest number of votes to run in the general election—even if they’re in the same party.

“The question they will have to ask each other is: Do they want to have a very expensive primary election and a very expensive general election?” said Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a veteran congressman whose current Los Angeles-area district borders those of Berman and Sherman. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Perhaps it’s inevitable that these two would find themselves fighting one another for political survival. Although they profess to be warm colleagues, they did not get along during the last round of redistricting in 2001. Sherman complained that Berman, whose brother was a member of the legislature’s redistricting committee at the time, “stabbed me in the back” by drawing conservative areas into Sherman’s district instead of his own.

Although Berman and Sherman will probably be the most fun to watch, they were not the only powerful incumbents harmed by the redistricting. Despite his position as chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, Republican David Dreier has been placed in a heavily Hispanic district that will make re-election in 2012 tough. [Politico]

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