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In Debate, Brad Sherman Attacks Howard Berman On Iraq War, Trade and Super PACs

Berman, meanwhile, pitched himself in more pragmatic terms, stressing his skills as an effective dealmaker and his ability to bring home federal dollars to the San Fernando Valley. He cited his efforts to secure funding for Hansen Dam, for widening the 405 freeway, and for more LAPD officers.

Republicans Mark Reed and Susan Shelley also participated. Of the two, Reed appears to be the stronger candidate. He distinguished himself at the debate by out-hawking both Sherman and Berman on the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons. Reed suggested that the U.S. should bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, rather than wait for the Israelis to do it. If Reed can consolidate enough conservative support, he has a shot to get into the November runoff.

Most observers, however, expect Sherman and Berman to face each other twice: first in June and again in November. In the runoff, Republicans and independents could make the difference.

The race is likely to be one of the most expensive in the country this year. Eric Bauman, chair of the L.A. Democratic Party, predicted it would end up costing $12 million. Three independent "Super PACs" have formed to back Berman's campaign: the Committee to Elect and Effective Valley Congressman, the Valley-Israel Alliance, and Rebuilding America.

At the debate, Sherman urged Berman to sign a pledge that would neutralize the impact of Super PACs. The pledge -- which Sherman printed out on a giant posterboard -- would commit both candidates to refund whatever money was spent on their behalf by Super PACs to the U.S. Treasury out of their own campaign coffers.

Berman brushed it off.

After he's done in Congress, Berman said, "Brad will make an excellent Hollywood stuntman."

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