Howard Berman for Congress in the 30th

The Democratic slugfest underway in California’s 30th Congressional District is the product of two political developments of recent years: the open primary and nonpartisan redistricting. The former means that the two top finishers in the upcoming congressional race will face each other again in the fall, even if both are from the same political party; the latter has resulted in two titans of the Southern California Democratic Party having to face each other. Rep. Howard Berman and Rep. Brad Sherman are admirable public officials with long and impressive records of service. Either would provide solid representation for the 30th District. Faced with a tough choice, The Times endorses Berman.

That is not to slight Sherman. He has ably represented his San Fernando Valley district since 1997. He has a reliably liberal voting record that includes support for the environment, aid to education, support for Israel, delivery of services to his district and skepticism of some of the free-trade pacts advanced in recent years. He also played a leading role in opposing the Bush administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program as the economy melted down in 2008.

What makes choosing a favorite in this race especially difficult is that Berman holds most of those views as well. He is a liberal who has lent important support to Israel, consistently votes to protect the environment and has delivered for his district. He has served California in Congress since 1982 and enjoys considerable seniority, serving as the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the second-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Those positions give Berman broad influence; he is one of Congress’ most highly regarded foreign policy lawmakers and is a leading voice on intellectual property issues, a topic close to the heart of his constituents in the entertainment industry. Finally, though he has a long record of bipartisan achievement, he is supported by the overwhelming majority of the California Democratic congressional delegation, including both of the state’s U.S. senators, as well as by Gov. Jerry Brown.

On the relatively few issues that separate these candidates, we generally side with Berman. On trade, for instance, Berman, a former labor lawyer, has supported pacts that open foreign markets to American goods and clear obstacles to countries shipping to the United States. That’s smart, and is in contrast to Sherman’s more protectionist stands. In addition, Sherman’s opposition to TARP makes for good politics, but those rescue efforts helped arrest the economy’s perilous slide and helped lay the foundation for today’s recovery.

Those are small differences between two worthy candidates. But based on his experience, his seniority and our agreement with him on a few distinguishing issues, there is reason to believe that Howard Berman will be more effective in the years to come at serving the voters of his district. The Times endorses Berman.

JUNE 5 PRIMARY: Find all recommendations by The Times’ editorial board