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.
‘IT’S IN THE FAMILY BONES’
“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
A HARD LESSON TO LEARN
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.
BROTHERS AND BUDDIES
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
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.
ALL ABOUT EVE...AND ALEXA
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.
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.
THE SCHIFF FILE
* 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.