Plenty of undecided voters, including many registered Republicans, came out Wednesday night in Reseda for one the last debates between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman before the Nov. 6 election.
And some left swayed by one candidate. West Hills resident Pat Winson, and her husband, Bob, both registered Republicans watching the hotly contested 30th Congressional District race, declared their support for Berman at the end of the event.
"He's better at reaching across the aisle," Bob Winson said.
Every vote - and every debate - matters at this point. With just four weeks left before the election, Berman and Sherman are campaigning furiously, holding events at a rapid pace throughout the Valley to woo local residents.
During the 90-minute event Wednesday at the ONE Generation Center, the two politicians did their best to differentiate themselves, and display their individual styles and policy stances. | See photo gallery.
"I have held 160 Valley town hall meetings," Sherman told the audience, painting himself as the more accessible politician.
By contrast, Berman leaned on his lengthy record in Congress and his endorsements from key politicians, telling the group: "I'm the guy they go to to deliver."
Unlike previous debates between the politicians, which have quickly turned into forums for the two men to attack one another, Wednesday night's event was largely civil.
On many issues, the two Democrats agreed. Both regret going to war in Iraq, both support President Barack Obama's health care legislation, and both sympathize with the persecution of Chinese practitioners of falun gong.
In terms of higher education, Sherman complained that elite universities are "pricing themselves out of the market," while Berman stated that local universities need to stop relying on foreign and out-of-state students to foot the bill.
On the economy and the nation's debt problem, Berman called for increasing the tax rate on those making more than $250,000, while Sherman said he supports the president's power to veto line items in the budget.
Addressing job creation in the 30th District, Berman talked about the cost of runaway production, while Sherman repeated his support of Obama's job bill.
During their closing remarks, both men reiterated the themes that now define campaigns: Berman portrayed himself as the more distinguished politician than Sherman, with deep experience in foreign policy, and a willingness to work with Republicans.
An admitted outsider, Sherman used his loner position to his advantage. He cast himself as willing to challenge controversial bills, and criticized Berman as being entrenched in Congress.
Despite some grumbling that the veteran politicians are similar, differences came through Wednesday, audience members said.
"I'm going with Sherman," said Virginia Thompson, a North Hills resident who'd come to the event undecided.
She couldn't recall what exactly Sherman said during the debate that won her over, but her vote was set.