Jewish candidates' gains help power Democrats' capture of House in the US mid-term elections

Political faces fresh and old are swept to power in the US mid-term elections


The blue Democratic party wave which swept Donald Trump’s Republicans from power in America’s House of Representatives this week will see fresh Jewish faces in Washington — and old hands assuming new responsibilities.

Former synagogue president Jacky Rosen’s ousting of Republican incumbent Dean Heller in Nevada helped to limit the Democrats’ losses in the Senate, where the party’s longshot hope of winning control was hampered by a battleground which contained a series of rock solid “red states” in which Mr Trump remains popular.

Veteran Jewish senators Dianne Feinstein in California, Bernie Sanders in Vermont and Maryland’s Ben Cardin all cruised to re-election.

Meanwhile, Jared Polis, a wealthy young tech entrepreneur who turned to politics a decade ago, also became America’s first openly gay governor.

Mr Polis’ victory in Colorado was one of two governorships won by Jews.

In Illinois, fellow Democrat JB Pritzker unseated Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner. The victory underlined the party’s resurgence in the Midwest — the region which unexpectedly delivered the White House to Mr Trump two years ago.

The Republicans’ much-anticipated loss of the House of Representatives was, in part, powered by a string of victories by Jewish Democrats.

Heavily favoured candidates, such as Elissa Slotkin, a former senior national security under Barack Obama running in Michigan; lawyer Susan Wild in Pennsylvania; and Minnesota entrepreneur Dean Phillips, ousted Republican incumbents.

But Democrat underdogs also helped their party win its majority in the House of Representatives.

Among them were two Jewish veterans – Max Rose, who was awarded a Purple Heart after serving in Afghanistan, and Elaine Luria.

Ms Luria, a former Navy commander, will now represent the Virginia district which includes the Norfolk naval base.

The only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives – New York’s Lee Zeldin and David Kustoff, who represents parts of Memphis – won re-election. Mr Zeldin defeated Democrat Perry Gershon in one of a handful of races where both candidates were Jewish.

Two controversial Jewish Republicans – Lena Epstein in Michigan and New Jersey’s Seth Grossman – were defending seats held by the president’s party, but were defeated by Democrats.

Last month, Ms Epstein invited a Messianic rabbi to say an opening prayer for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre at a campaign rally which was also addressed by US vice president Mike Pence, while Mr Grossman was cut loose by the Republican party after allegations concerning racist social media posts.

There were mixed results for other Republicans from whom their party had tried to distance itself.

Iowa congressman Steve King, whose links to white nationalists and the far right had appeared to endanger his re-election, narrowly staved off defeat, while Holocaust deniers John Fitzgerald in California and Illinois’ Arthur Jones were both soundly crushed.

Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat running in Virginia, lost a race which had appeared close in the final days.

Ms Cockburn’s 1991 book, Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship, was described by The Tablet magazine as “a favourite reference work for unhinged anti-Semites on both the left and the right”.

The dovish, pro-Israel group J-Street defended Ms Cockburn from Republican allegations of antisemitism.  

The new Democrat House of Representatives will nonetheless have a handful of strong critics of Israel come next January.

They include:

  • Young rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who described May’s clashes on the Gaza border as a “massacre”;
  • Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who supports a one-state solution;
  • Ilhan Omar, who was revealed to have tweeted in 2012 about Israel’s “evil doings”.

All were elected for the first time, but theirs remains a distinctly minority view and Israel will be relieved to see staunch supporter, Jewish New Yorker Eliot Engel, assume the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

On the domestic front, Jewish Democrats are likely to cause Mr Trump multiple headaches in the House.

John Yarmuth, who will lead the Budget Committee, is expected to press for release of the president’s tax returns.

Jerrold Nadler is thought likely to use his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee to look afresh at the sexual assault charges which were levelled against controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Perhaps most dangerously for Mr Trump, Adam Schiff will take charge of the Intelligence Committee and widen the investigation into alleged collusion between the president’s 2016 campaign and the Kremlin — a probe which Mr Trump’s Republican allies have effectively scuppered thus far.

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