Californian vows to unite a House divided

WASHINGTON — When California state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) stepped into the race for a seat in the House of Representatives, he found himself at the epicenter of the costliest congressional contest of the year.

Facing Republican incumbent Rep. James Rogan, a prominent House manager in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, the duel for the district bordering Los Angeles raised more than $10 million, largely from Clinton friends and foes — and special interests on both sides.

One such group, representing the religious right and supporting Rogan, went so far as to distribute a mailer questioning whether the Democratic candidate represented "good Christian values," recalls Schiff, who is Jewish and a strong advocate for the separation of church and state.

"It was deplorable," he says.

The Interfaith Alliance, a nonpartisan faith-based organization that urges respect between religions, eventually condemned the flier.

Ultimately outspent by about $2.4 million, Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, managed to defeat Rogan by 9 percent. Campaigning on a traditional Democratic slate of issues — improving public education, protecting abortion rights and supporting measures to limit access to guns — Schiff earned a seat in a Democratic-leaning district.

In a deeply divided House, Schiff's emphasis on bipartisan cooperation may be his most important attribute.

"I ran on a platform of nonpartisanship because that is what it will take to get things done," he says.

A decade ago Schiff worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.