Speaker Berman at Long Last?

Douglas Jeffe
Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

Before being elected to Congress in 1982,  Rep. Howard Berman had a memorable ten year stint in the California Assembly culminating in a bruising speakership fight that he lost when Assembly Republicans threw their support to Willie Brown in 1980.   With Assembly Speaker John Perez being termed out in 2014, that coveted job is about to open up just as Howard Berman emerges from his three productive decades in the House of Representatives.

Don’t think it is going to happen.  Congressman Berman has got to be a prime candidate for an important spot in the Obama Administration if he wants it and, if not,  there have got to be numerous private sector opportunities for the veteran lawmaker who has been the House’s go to guy on intellectual property issues, as well as one of the most respected voices on foreign affairs and national security.  Even so, it is intriguing to think what he could bring to the Assembly Speakership .  After all, Jerry Brown came back, why not Howard Berman?

During the 1970s, Berman rose to become Assembly Majority Leader and one of the most accomplished operators in the Capitol. he was a prodigious fundraiser and, along with his campaign consultant brother Michael,  spearheaded successful campaign for Democrats up and down the state.  There wasn’t enough of that political magic left to overcome the last reapportionment, which carved up Berman’s old district and forced him to run unsuccessfully  in the West San Fernando Valley against incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman, who had represented most of the new  district for the past 16 years.

In the Assembly, Berman was the closest legislative ally of then and now-Governor Jerry Brown.   His legislative accomplishments included landmark farm worker legislation and a medical malpractice reform package that has left notoriously litigious California in much better shape than most other state when it come to reining in out of control medical malpractice costs.  With his record in Sacramento and Washington, it is hard to imagine anyone else with the kind of legislative chops Berman would bring to the Capitol.

Of course, Howard Berman isn’t a member of the Assembly.  As it happens, that might be one of the simplest obstacles to remedy.  Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who was Congressman Berman’s Chief of Staff, is being termed out and is now the front-runner for a San Fernando Valley City Council seat.  If Blumenfield wins this Spring, there will be a special election to fill his Assembly seat later  in 2013.  Berman left Sacramento long before term limits, so he could serve another twelve years in the Assembly.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Howard Berman to ride in on a white horse and save the day, but with all of California’s problems and challenges,  some more adult supervisions would certainly be welcome.

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