WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) put his arm around Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and challenged him to a physical fight during a heated debate.
The two Jewish Democrats, pitted against each other in a suburban Los Angeles district because of redistricting, have fought a bitter and expensive race.
The debate Thursday at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley grew heated when Sherman sought to push back against Berman’s claims of leadership on a number of bills popular in the district.
Sherman insisted that Berman did not lead on sponsoring the DREAM Act, the legislation that would have created a path to citizenship to immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. Sherman instead attributed the initiative to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). (The bill ultimately failed, although President Obama issued orders this year including some of its elements.)
Congressional records show Berman as the lead sponsor on the U.S. House of Representatives version of the Act; Sherman later clarified that he was referring to a Gutierrez initiative that got wrapped into the final version.
Berman, incensed, called Sherman a liar and said he was "delusional" for denying Berman’s lead role in advancing the bill.
Sherman stood up, although he was out of turn, and shouted that Gutierrez introduced the bill.
Berman, 71, said "you are wrong," and appeared to approach Sherman, 57.
Sherman shouted, "Don’t you dare stand up her in the west San Fernando Valley and get in my face! Get away from me!"
He put his arm around Berman and said, "You want to get into this? You want to put your face in mine?"
A sheriff separated the men.
After the debate, the Berman campaign accused Sherman of "losing his mind" and said that his temperament was "unsuitable" for a member of Congress, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported.
Sherman in a statement said the debate "was not conducted at the highest level" and added, "I regret my part in allowing emotions to distract from the exchange of views."
The candidates also discussed their role in defending Israel in Congress and advancing legislation isolating Iran.