An increasingly bitter California congressional race between two House Democrats turned physical Thursday when one aggressively seized the shoulder of his opponent during a debate, yanked him toward his chest and shouted, "You want to get into this?"
The confrontation between Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman came amid a nasty campaign for a Los Angeles-area seat that has become one of the most expensive House contests in the nation.
The lunge by the 57-year-old Sherman appeared to startle Berman, who is 71 and smaller in stature, while the audience hooted and shouted.
Moments earlier, during a dispute on an immigration-related bill, Berman, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, stepped close to Sherman on the stage, who told his colleague loudly, "Get out of my face."
The two men later stood nose-to-nose exchanging words before a sheriff's deputy emerged behind them and briefly placed his hand on Sherman's shoulder. Sherman sat down and took a drink from what appeared to be a water bottle before the two men continued the debate.
Berman's campaign released a video of the confrontation at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley.
Berman has not responded to the altercation, but his senior advisor released a statement saying Sherman was acting "like a bully."
"At a debate in front of local college students Congressman Brad Sherman loses his mind and acts like a bully," the statement read. "This speaks directly to his temperament that is totally unsuitable for anyone, especially for a member of Congress. The Valley deserves better."
The veteran lawmakers were pulled into the same district after a voter-approved independent panel redrew California's political boundaries. They were the top vote-getters in the June primary and went on to the general election because of California's new primary system, which sends the top two finishers to the runoff regardless of party affiliation.
Their race for the 30th district seat is one of eight same-party congressional runoffs on California's November ballot. Another, in the San Francisco Bay area, involves Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, the longest-serving member of the state's congressional delegation.
Sherman said in a statement that the debate "was not conducted at the highest level. I regret my part in allowing emotions to distract from the exchange of views."
The campaign has seen a series of competing accusations, ranging from suggestions of ethical impropriety to fleecing taxpayers. Earlier Thursday, two former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, released a letter defending Berman for taking overseas trips following criticism from Sherman's campaign.