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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023


CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter James Rogan came to Congress as a political rookie by Washington’s standards, though as a member of the majority party, a former prosecutor and a conservative that even liberals call likable, the Pasadena Republican landed a plum assigned on the House Judiciary Committee just in time for the Monica Lewinsky scandal. “I don’t take stuff too seriously,” said Rogan, of the massive media exposure and accolades he has received of late. “This town is littered with carcasses of former rising stars of Washington.” Brad Sherman’s experience as a first-time congressman couldn’t have been more different. The Woodland Hills Democrat has toiled away in virtual obscurity, tackling efforts to loosen the tax code as it relates to stock-option incentives. One of his biggest claims to fame in recent weeks was winning a four-month delay in the importation of Argentinean lemons a quest he undertook at the behest of Ventura County farmers purportedly concerned about a Medfly infestation. “I’m really not a sexy guy,” said the accountant and Harvard law school graduate who with self-depreciating wit hands out combs during campaign gatherings, saying “I bet you can use this more than me,” in reference to his bald pate. When asked about the contrast in exposure between himself and Rogan, Sherman replies, “Hey, there are show horses and then there are work horses.” As both men go into the Nov. 3 general election, their different styles and different experiences over the past two years will help determine whether they end up in the 106th Congress. And as could be expected in this very unusual campaign season, nothing is a sure bet. Rogan, who has been a national media darling in recent weeks and was recently named one of the top 10 political stars of the new century by MSNBC is in a fairly competitive race against Democrat Barry Gordon, a former president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Rogan’s 27th District, which takes in Burbank, Glendale, Sunland and Pasadena, is 44 percent Democrat to 39 percent Republican, and for the first time in years Democrats in 1996 won seats in both the state Assembly and Senate. “Rogan’s the only Republican, while the rest of the representatives in the area are Democrats,” said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant. “He has a highly competitive seat.” Sherman, whose 24th District takes in the West Valley and parts of Ventura County, is running against millionaire businessman Randy Hoffman, the founder and former CEO of Magellan Systems, a San Dimas company that makes satellite navigation systems. The Republican Party has named Sherman one of the 10 most vulnerable Democrats in Congress, and Hoffman has drawn the likes of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom Delay and Former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole to stump for him in the district. “Sherman only got 49 percent of the vote in a landslide year for Democrats. If you can’t do better than that your chances in a low-turnout (non-presidential) election aren’t good,” said Todd Harris, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Sherman, who serves on the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, said that although he has not enjoyed the same exposure as the Valley’s other freshman and despite being a member of the minority party he believes he has accomplished a lot in his first term. He takes pride in serving on the budget committee, where he helped push through an amendment that provided $700 million nationwide for the purchase of environmentally important lands. A total of $6.5 million is slated for the purchase of land in the Santa Monica Mountains for the backbone trail. Rogan, on the other hand, helped secure $2 million in start-up funding to allow Glendale College to create a science education center in which students as young as kindergarten and as old as college can learn about science and interact with Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists. Rogan, who also serves on the Commerce Committee, also joined other lawmakers in pushing through an amendment to a communications bill that insures police and fire agencies will have adequate radio frequencies set aside for their needs. Joe Cerrell, a longtime Los Angeles-area political consultant, said Rogan has had a remarkable ride his first term, while Sherman as a member of the minority party has not received the same exposure. “A luxury Sherman doesn’t have is being part of the majority. This is not the state Legislature where the party in power will throw a bone to the opposition,” he said. “This is highly partisan, and if you’re lucky (as a member of the minority) you get to be called a ranking member, but in this case Sherman is not there.” Although Democrats have a slight edge in Rogan’s district, the Republican is in a much stronger position than Sherman going into the election, said Harris. That’s because Rogan picked up 49 percent of the vote in 1996 in a district in which Bill Clinton picked up 52 percent of the vote. In addition, Rogan has since received invaluable media exposure by landing the Judiciary Committee assignment in short order, observers agree. Gordon, who said he has raised about $420,000 so far in his campaign against Rogan, said the exposure will hurt his opponent more than help him. Rogan has been playing himself off as a moderate in the district while aligning himself with the party’s extreme right, said Gordon, adding that this visibility will dispel any doubt among Rogan’s constituents about his political leanings. Gordon, 49, noted that the Christian Coalition recently awarded Rogan with a 100 percent rating for his stand on such issues as abortion (Rogan is opposed) and prayer in the public schools (Rogan voted for a constitutional amendment that would allow it). The American Civil Liberties Union gave Rogan a “0” rating. “Jim’s best asset was his anonymity. He was able to paint himself in the district as a moderate,” said Gordon. Rogan responded, “Barry’s Gordon’s not even in the Bill Clinton wing of the party, he’s in the Jessie Jackson wing This guy is so far to the left and so extreme.” At a time when the federal government is looking at a $1.6 trillion surplus over the next 10 years, Gordon is supporting tax increases, Rogan said. “If people care about balancing the budget, reducing spending and using the surplus to save Social Security, they should vote for me,” he said. Hoffman, a Thousand Oaks resident who has raised close to $1 million $570,000 of which came from his own pocket used a similar tack in his own race against Sherman, who Hoffman says is out of step with his constituents because he is too liberal. “All you have to do is look at his voting record. He’s voted with Howard Berman and Henry Waxman 80 percent of the time. Neither one of those guys can be referred to as a moderate or pro business,” Hoffman said. Sherman said the figure is more like 76 percent of the time, but the accusation is meaningless. He said he voted with local Republicans like Rogan, Gallegly and McKeon 52 to 55 percent of the time. Sherman said Hoffman’s biggest failing is that he refuses to take a position on the issues, leaving constituents to wonder where he stands. Republican consultant Hoffenblum said that although Sherman is in a highly competitive position, he has a big advantage over Hoffman by virtue of the fact that he’s an incumbent. “Brad Sherman’s district is a sprawling area of mostly suburban homes. There’s no power center, and most voters don’t know anything about the candidates other than what they read in the mail,” said Hoffenblum. “The problem Hoffman has is, he’s going against an incumbent when people are pretty much satisfied with the status quo.” As for the Rogan-Gordon race, Cerrell agrees with Hoffenblum that Rogan is in a competitive district, but said Gordon will have a tough time unseating Rogan. “The truth of the matter is, if I turned on the TV Sunday morning and saw Jim Rogan on ‘Meet the Press,’ I would be impressed with that. I would think, the guy’s doing a job for me. Why should I get rid of a guy who is close to the leadership?”

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