Meet Adam Schiff


Claudia Peschiutta

GLENDALE -- Pa Harry didn’t much like Democrats.

His favorite way of referring to them was, “Those damn Democrats.”

Unfortunately for Pa Harry, his grandson, Adam Schiff, joined the


Schiff, 40, became the area’s Democratic state senator four years ago

and hopes to go on to Congress in November.

If his parents, Sherry and Ed Schiff, had anything to do with his

choice, Schiff could have gone either way.

Sherry comes from a long line of Republicans and is a registered

member of the party, while Ed comes from a family of Democrats.

Environment may have helped tip the scale.

“I remember, like every kid growing up in Boston, being awed by John

Kennedy,” Schiff said.

Despite Schiff’s admiration for the Democratic president and other

political figures, such as Winston Churchill, those who knew him as a boy

probably would never have guessed he would one day run for Congress.


“As a kid, he was a little bit quiet,” Sherry said. “I remember

saying, ‘Adam, you don’t tell me that many things. I don’t even know if

you’re dating.’ ”

That quiet kid never expected to be voted most likely to succeed by

classmates at the Bay Area high school he attended.

“I was totally shocked,” Schiff said. “I didn’t think anybody in the

school knew who I was.”

His first step toward becoming a legislator came when, as an

undergraduate at Stanford University, he decided to study law instead of


“My parents were appalled when I chose law school,” Schiff said.

Sherry said she had been hoping to have a doctor in a family full of


“The law, I guess it’s in the family bones,” she said.

Her son went on to Harvard Law School and, in 1987, became a criminal

prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Schiff said he never lost a case and even brought about the first

conviction of an FBI agent on espionage charges, but he eventually

decided to do more than just go after criminals.

“You get the sense that for every one you put away, there are two more

where they came from,” he said.

So, he decided to run for office, in the hope of making a bigger



His first try was anything but encouraging.

In a special election for a district that has since become part of the

43rd state Assembly District, Schiff said he came in 10th out of 14


His next attempt came in 1994, in a special election for the 43rd

District, which he lost to James Rogan. He lost to Rogan again in the

general election later that year.

“I learned the hard way, by losing,” Schiff said of running for


His first win came in 1996, when he beat out Paula Boland for the 21st

state Senate District seat, which he has held ever since.

People in the area have come to know Schiff for his work in office,

which includes serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Juvenile

Justice Select committees.

What many of them don’t know is that Schiff is also a painter and a

writer, has a penchant for Billy Joel and speaks some Slovak, a skill he

picked up during a six-month stint in the former Czechoslovakia for the

U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Among the people who know him best is David McMillan, the 21-year-old

who as a boy met Schiff in the Big Brother program.


McMillan was a 7-year-old growing up with a single mom in Inglewood

when he was introduced to the man he counts as a male role model.

Growing up, McMillan said he talked to Schiff about everything, from

girls to his fear of the dark.

“One night, I was really afraid but I was trying to stay in my room

and be brave,” McMillan recalled. “Adam stayed on the phone with me until

almost morning.”

When kids at his junior high school teased him for not being “black

enough,” McMillan went to Schiff for help.

“He helped me to realize that I was OK to be different,” McMillan


The two will celebrate their 14 years as “brothers” in August.

“He lasted longer than all my girlfriends,” Schiff joked.

The other person who has outlasted them is his wife, Eve.


Adam and Eve (yes, they have heard all the jokes) met about 10 years

ago, at a doubles tennis match set up by mutual friends. They immediately

clicked and eventually married in 1995.

When he isn’t in Sacramento, Schiff likes to go to the movies with Eve

and spend time with his 2-year-old daughter, Alexa, also known as


“I don’t like the time I spend away from Eve and Alexa,” Schiff said.

“It stinks.”

But they are the ones that motivate that sacrifice.

“The work in office gives me a chance to improve the quality of the

schools my daughter will go to and the neighborhoods that she will grow

up in,” Schiff said. “That makes it worth it.”

Sherry Schiff said Pa Harry, her father, wouldn’t begrudge her

youngest son his political choice.

“If he were alive, he would be very proud of Adam, even though he is a

Democrat,” she said.


* NAME: Adam Schiff, state senator, D-21st District.

* AGE: 40.

* RESIDENCE: Burbank.

* FAMILY: Adam and his wife, Eve, have a 2-year-old daughter, Alexa.

* TIME IN OFFICE: Schiff was elected to the 21st state Senate District

seat in 1996.