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July 11, 2018 12:54 pm

Dramatic Shift to GOP in Key PA Congressional Race Follows Revelations of Democratic Candidate’s Anti-Israel Ties

avatar by Ben Cohen

The Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) ad attacking Democratic candidate Scott Wallace over his foundation’s ties with anti-Israel activists. Image: Screenshot.

Democratic Party electoral candidates who embrace anti-Israel causes could find themselves painted as “elitist” and out of touch in the eyes of voters, a new analysis of a key 2018 midterms race in Pennsylvania suggests.

This week, the Cook Political Report — an authoritative non-partisan newsletter that has analyzed every major political race in the US since 1984 — moved the contest in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District from its “Toss-Up” column to its “Lean Republican” column. The newsletter highlighted the TV ad campaign in the historically Democratic district launched at the end of June by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), alerting voters to Democratic candidate Scott Wallace’s ties with anti-Israel activists.

“The ad forced Wallace to respond with an almost unheard-of June damage-control ad noting that he…is a ‘strong supporter of Israel,'” the Cook Political Report observed. It added that “a wide path” remains open “for [GOP candidate Brian] Fitzpatrick and Republicans to disqualify Wallace as out of touch.”

Wallace’s Israel-related woes began in May, when Aiden Pink, a reporter with The Forward newspaper, revealed that the Wallace’s family foundation had “given hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.” Beneficiaries of the $140 million Wallace Global Fund’s largesse have included “Jewish Voice for Peace,” which advocates for Israel’s elimination as a democratic Jewish state, and 2017 Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour, an Arab-American activist who has called for “Zionists” to be banished from the women’s movement, and Tamika Mallory, an open admirer of the antisemitic Nation of Islam (NoI) leader Louis Farrakhan.

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The RJC decided on a full-throated campaign because “we were very worried about not just the positions that Wallace had taken, but also by the fact that he’s extremely wealthy and would have the opportunity to spend his vast fortune to whitewash his record,” Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

The”brutal” ad — as The Cook Political Report described it – attacked Wallace, the grandson of Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president, Henry Wallace, and the heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, for owning “mansions in Maryland and South Africa” and “donating $300,000 to antisemitic organizations that promote boycotting Israel.”

In response, Wallace issued a statement affirming his support for continued strong ties between the US and Israel. When the Democratic Jewish Outreach of Pennsylvania (DJOP) became the first Jewish organization to endorse Wallace on July 2, the candidate declared that he was “thrilled.”

“In Congress, I will serve as a committed friend to Israel and a loyal ally in our shared mission of promoting long-term peace in the region,” Wallace said in a subsequent statement. “I am committed to working to enhance the United States’ special relationship with Israel — which is critical to counter-terrorism, national security, job creation and economic growth in both the U.S. and Israel.”

However, Wallace’s name remains absent from the list of Senate and House candidates endorsed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA). An email from The Algemeiner to the JDCA asking whether the organization planned to endorse Wallace went unanswered by press time.

Neither did the Wallace campaign respond to a request for a comment on The Cook Political Report’s assertion that his family foundation’s support for radical fringe groups, alongside the candidate’s gilded lifestyle, would play badly with what it termed the “parochial, blue-collar electorate” in the district.

While Jewish voters comprise over 2 percent of voters in the district (a number that may have increased slightly with the redrawing of its boundaries earlier this year), the RJC’s Brooks argued that the Israel-related revelations had dented Wallace’s credibility with a much broader swathe of the electorate in a district that only narrowly favored Hillary Clinton, with 49 percent against 47 percent for Donald Trump, in the 2016 presidential election.

“It shows just how radical and out of touch Wallace is,” Brooks said. “These issues resonate beyond the Jewish community. They resonate with Evangelicals, for example, they resonate with people who care about US foreign policy and our role in the world.”

Brooks added that polling in the district conducted by the RJC had demonstrated three central worries about Wallace — his foundation’s support for radical groups, his support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and his long periods of residence outside in mansions in Maryland and South Africa — that were then emphasized in the group’s broadcast ad campaign.

Brooks was careful, however, not to draw overly hasty conclusions about other races from the example of Wallace’s ongoing campaign.

“A lot of the stuff here is unique to Scott Wallace,” he stressed. However, mindful of what he called the “significant rise of progressive left and their influence in moving the Democratic Party away from its traditional support of Israel,” Brooks said that the RJC plans to bring its advertising muscle to other races involving anti-Israel candidates.

One potential race, said Brooks, is Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. There, the Democratic nominee, Leslie Cockburn, co-authored a 1991 book on the relationship between the CIA and Israel that was, according to a New York Times review, “largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake.”

Cockburn’s book’s “first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace,” the review remarked. “The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”

One general lesson that Brooks does take from the current shift away from Wallace in the Pennsylvania 1st is that apologies and reassurances do not necessarily solve the problem.

“You’re judged by your actions, and his actions are worrisome and troubling,” Brooks stated.

Wallace had shown”no qualms about using the resources of his family foundation to fund organizations that are  outside the mainstream and rabidly anti-Israel,” Brooks said.

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