Watching early returns tilt in favor of Rep. Brad Sherman on Tuesday night, the question was asked of the Sherman Oaks congressman: "How does it feel to topple an icon?"
Sherman avoided directly answering the question, but the query turned out to be the understatement of the night.
In one of the nastiest and most expensive races in the country, Sherman handily beat Rep. Howard Berman, a ranking member of Congress who'd served more than three decades on the Hill and is deeply respected by his colleagues.
But in besting Berman, who issued a gracious statement conceding the race shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday, Sherman faces numerous challenges. Analysts say there could be expectations of him to reach out to Berman supporters and take a more prominent role in Washington, D.C.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Sherman, 58, signaled one of his priorities would be working to improve bipartisan relations in Congress.
"I work very well with Republicans all the time," he said. "The mood, for years, is that people have been upset with partisan gridlock. We all try to get better, and I will, too."
"I didn't go into politics to beat Howard Berman," Sherman added. "But there was an election, and that's how it worked out."
Berman conceded early Wednesday morning in a statement that congratulated both Sherman and City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who won the 29th Congressional District seat.
"I wish both of them the best of luck and the wisdom and strength to confront and overcome the challenges that face our nation," Berman said.
Sherman's win left him with 60 percent of the count, pulling in more than 100,000 votes compared with Berman's 71,000 votes.
Those big numbers will likely help him when it comes time to work with other Democrats, said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
While some Berman supporters quietly say the race was so antagonistic, and Sherman's campaign against Berman so negative, that Sherman needs to mend fences within the party, Schnur simply points to the vote count.
"If he won by 51 percent of the vote, Sherman might be thinking about what he needs to do to heal wounds," Schnur said. "But given the margin of victory, it's probably not on his mind."
Still, Schnur said Sherman likely will want to reach out to Berman supporters.
According to initial numbers provided by the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder's Office, Berman only beat out Sherman in City Council District 2, an area that includes Studio City and North Hollywood neighborhoods.
Overall, Sherman took more votes than Berman in Council Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 12, according to the Registrar/Recorder's Office.
But his sweeping popularity in the Valley doesn't translate to support in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday night, Ed Johnson, chief of staff for Herb Wesson, milled about the Berman headquarters' party, lamenting Berman's apparent departure from Washington, D.C.
"L.A. will lose a lot of power if Berman loses," Johnson said before the results were final. "Power is based on seniority, and personal relationships, and trust. If Howard loses, L.A. - and California - will miss him."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appeared to agreed with that notion at a news conference on Wednesday, pointing to the heavy lifting Berman has done for the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, such as securing funding for the recent 405 Freeway car-pool lane project.
"Losing Howard Berman is a blow to L.A.," Villaraigosa said. "It's just a fact."
But Schnur seemed more nonchalant about the turnover.
"There's a saying that power abhors a vacuum," Schnur said. "Someone will fill Berman's space, whether it's Sherman or another California Democrat."