Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Congressman Brad Sherman gets a GOP challenger

Internet entrepreneur Pablo Kleinman is running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Congressman Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.
Internet entrepreneur Pablo Kleinman is running as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Congressman Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.

Republican Latinos have found success in Florida and Texas. Now, an Argentine emigré is making a run for Congress in the San Fernando Valley against Democratic incumbent Brad Sherman.

Internet entrepreneur Pablo Kleinman describes himself as a "new generation" Republican: a fiscal conservative who is moderate on social issues. He supports making "tough choices" to cut the national debt, overturning the Affordable Care Act, and school vouchers and charter schools.

The 42-year-old Kleinman came the U.S. at the age of 13, eventually graduating from USC's School of International Relations. He also attended the HEC business school in Paris and the London Business School.

He's started several tech companies, one geared at Hollywood studios, one a Spanish-language search engine and, most recently, the online travel site Urbita — described as a multilingual "Pinterest for places." The site reports getting more than 15 million monthly unique visitors. 

Kleinman has a second career in media. He's the editor of "El Medio," a Spanish-language magazine about the Middle East (he is Jewish), and he is a regular commentator on radio and TV. Kleinman's Twitter bio describes him as a "freedom fighter" and bilingual "opinionator."

The 30th Congressional district is heavily Democratic — just one in four voters is registered Republican. And it has about twice as many white residents as Latinos. 

Last election, redistricting paved the way for a nasty, expensive campaign that pitted a pair of long-time Democratic incumbents — Sherman and Howard Berman — against each other. That race left Sherman cash poor: the latest Federal Elections Commission numbers show he has less than $90,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and has $562,000 in debt.

Sherman told the Los Angeles Times, "The more people we can get in the race, the better." But his encouragement goes only so far. Sherman, never known to turn down an opportunity to add a bit of humor, adds: "I'm not willing to pay anybody else's filing fees."

There are two other candidates who have already jumped into the race for the 30th district: Republican Mark Reed and Green Party candidate Michael Powelson.

Kleinman is not the first GOP candidate to court demographic groups that usually trend Democratic. In San Diego, former city councilman Carl DeMaio is challenging freshman Democrat Scott Peters for his Congressional seat. DeMaio is an openly gay Republican.

But appealing to gay voters is different from getting political support from organizations that serve the gay community. DeMaio told Fox News the "dirty little secret is that the progressive LGBT leadership in this country have been far less tolerant, far less supportive of me and other Republicans as LGBT members of the community who happen to be Republican than social conservatives who've accepted us as Republicans who just so happen to be gay." 

Kleinman is likely to find similar difficulty finding political support from Latino organizations that have traditionally supported Democratic candidates.