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October 30, 2020 9:50 am

Top House Races Jewish Voters Should Be Eyeing Before Nov. 3

avatar by Jackson Richman / JNS.org

The House of Representatives Building and the East Portico of the US Capitol. Photo: Flickr.

JNS.org – While the 2020 election has been understandably focused on the presidential race, control of the US House of Representatives will also be important as the Democratic Party is expected to hold onto the lower congressional chamber.

As the progressive base of the Democratic Party has become more prominent—notably with antisemitic rhetoric coming from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—control of the House could be crucial and affect US policy on issues relevant to the Jewish and pro-Israel community, especially as an increasing number of Democrats have called for conditioning US assistance for Israel on the Jewish state not applying sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

On the other side of the aisle, concern has also arisen over the Republican Party’s ability to address white supremacism. In fact, most US Jews and the general public view the Republicans as more antisemitic than Democrats.

Below are 10 of the dozen House races that have been deemed close in states with significant Jewish populations. All the districts are competitive, according to The Cook Political Report.

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Note: Jewish population figures are from 2012, and according to the North American Jewish Data Bank by the Jewish Federations of North America.

CALIFORNIA 25

Jewish population: 46,000 (4.98 percent of district population)

Summary: This district covers both part of northern Los Angeles County and Ventura County.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Garcia, who won in a special election in May to succeed Democratic Rep. Katie Hill after she resigned in November 2019 amid sexual misconduct allegations and related photos, faces off against Democratic State Assemblywoman Christy Smith.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Garcia said that the US elimination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January was a “valid kill” and expressed support for a drawdown of US troops in the Middle East.

“Peace in the Middle East is a longer-term goal and expectation, but I think there is a realistic near-term opportunity for stability in the Middle East,” he said. “I don’t know that that requires the US to be as present as it has been over the course of the last, I’ll call it, 30 years. It certainly does involve investment and continued partnership with Israel in order to maintain, or to achieve and then maintain, stability.”

Smith told Jewish Insider that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “the way to go,” but it should not be imposed by the United States. She also expressed opposition to conditioning US assistance to Israel and to the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Endorsements: Smith has been endorsed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America and Democratic Majority for Israel’s super PAC, DMFI PAC, and Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. Garcia has been endorsed by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

CALIFORNIA 39

Jewish population: 12,000 (1.71 percent of district population)

Summary: This district includes part of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

Incumbent first-term Democratic Rep. Gil Cisneros faces a rematch against former Republican State Assemblywoman Young Kim. The race in 2018 was close with Cisneros, a $266 million lottery winner, receiving 51.6 percent of the vote, while Kim got 48.4 percent.

Were Kim, whose campaign declined an interview request, to pull off an upset, she would be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress. Cisneros’s campaign did not respond to an interview request.

In response to Soleimani, Cisneros, a US Navy veteran and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “While there is justice in his death, I am deeply concerned about how this attack was carried out and the absence of a clear strategy for managing the consequences.”

When confronted in May 2019 about antisemitic comments made by Omar and Tlaib, he did not respond and just walked away.

Cisneros was one of 107 House Democrats to sign a letter last year to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to stop considering Israeli settlements a violation of international law. He was also one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

And he was part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

Endorsements: Cisneros has been endorsed by JDCA and DMFI PAC, while Kim has been endorsed by RJC.

CALIFORNIA 48

Jewish population: 29,000 (4.13 percent of district population)

Summary: This district covers Orange County, including Huntington Beach.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda faces Republican Orange County Board of Supervisors member Michelle Steel.

Rouda was one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. He was also part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

In March 2019, Rouda said that Omar’s comments the previous month accusing AIPAC of paying members of Congress to back Israel, saying it was “all about the Benjamins,” was antisemitic.

The following August, he slammed US President Donald Trump for calling on Israel to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib, a result that ended up happening.

“I have plenty of my own differences of ideas with Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib, but Americans deserve a president who stands with them at home and abroad, regardless of policy disagreements,” he said in a statement. “President Trump’s call for Israel to deny entry to my colleagues is the work of dictators and authoritarians, not an American president. It’s not just un-American, it’s the opposite of American. This outrageous request must be withdrawn, and Israel’s decision should be reversed immediately.”

Regarding the elimination of Soleimani, Rouda said that while “Soleimani died with American blood on his hands,” his “despicable disregard for humanity does not negate the fact that the strike, which led to his death, was conducted without a congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iran, a potentially unconstitutional act.”

Endorsements: Rouda has been endorsed by JDCA and DMFI PAC, while has been endorsed by RJC.

FLORIDA 26

Jewish population: 11,000 (1.58 percent of district population)

Summary: This district is in the far south portion of the state and includes all of Monroe County and a part of southwest Miami-Dade County.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who first won in 2018, will face Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, a Republican.

Mucarsel-Powell said in March 2019, “I condemn all forms of bigotry, including Omar’s antisemitic comments. I condemned her statements when she made them, and I’ve seen her grow and learn from her mistake. Let me be clear: There is no room for antisemitism in this country, no matter which party you belong to.”

Mucarsel-Powell was one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

She was part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

Endorsements: Mucarsel-Powell has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC, JStreetPAC and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, while Giménez has been endorsed by the RJC.

MICHIGAN 11

Jewish population: 17,500 (2.48 percent of district population)

Summary: This district is northwest of Detroit.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens, who first won in 2018, faces off against Republican lawyer Eric Esshaki, whose father, Steve, is a Chaldean Christian who immigrated to the United State from Iraq in the 1970s.

In February 2019, Stevens was one of 25 Democratic House members who called on Democratic congressional leadership to condemn antisemitism in the aftermath of Omar’s comments accusing AIPAC of paying members of Congress to back Israel, saying it was “all about the Benjamins.”

Earlier this year, Stevens signed onto a letter of more than 30 House Democrats, demanding answers from the Trump administration regarding the decision to carry out the airstrike against Soleimani. She was also one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Endorsements: Stevens has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, while Esshaki has been endorsed by the RJC.

NEW JERSEY 3

Jewish population: 38,000 (5.19 percent of district population)

Summary: This district covers part of central New Jersey.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, who first won in 2018, faces Republican and former construction consulting executive David Richter.

Earlier this year, Kim signed onto a letter of more than 30 House Democrats, demanding answers from the Trump administration regarding the decision to carry out the airstrike against Soleimani.

In February, Kim signed onto a letter to Trump from more than 100 House Democrats opposing the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan. He was also part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

In June, Kim signed onto a letter with fellow Democrats addressed to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, calling on him to “strongly condemning all acts of violence, whether perpetrated against Israelis or Palestinians.”

He was one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Endorsements: Kim has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC, JStreetPAC, Pro-Israel America and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, while Richter has been endorsed by the RJC.

NEW JERSEY 7

Jewish population: 46,000 (6.28 percent of district population)

Summary: This district includes a large part of northern and western New Jersey, including some affluent New York City suburbs.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who first won in 2018, faces State Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., a Republican.

In response to Omar’s comments accusing AIPAC of paying members of Congress to back Israel, saying it was “all about the Benjamins,” Malinowski tweeted: “There is nothing wrong with debating the substance of our Middle East policy. But to suggest that Jewish money is what determines that policy is antisemitism. There can be no place for that on the left or the right.”

Malinowski was one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria. He was also part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

Over the United States eliminating Soleimani, following a briefing by members of the Trump administration over the airstrike, Malinowski said, “The question for me is: Are we better off or are we worse off? Are we safer or are we less safe? I don’t see any evidence, in terms of our national security interest, that we are in any way better off as a result of this. Iran is still engaged in all of the malign activities it was engaged in when Soleimani was alive, but it may be closer today to his central goal of expelling us from Iraq and the Middle East.”

Endorsements: Malinowski has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC, JStreetPAC and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, while Kean has been endorsed by the RJC.

NEW YORK 19

Jewish population: 20,000 (2.79 percent of district population)

Summary: This district is in Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, who first won in 2018, faces attorney and US Army Maj. Kyle Van De Water, a Republican.

Delgado signed onto a letter of more than 30 House Democrats, demanding answers from the Trump administration regarding the decision to carry out the airstrike against Soleimani. He was also part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran.

Delgado was one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Endorsements: Delgado has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC, JStreetPAC and Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC, while Van De Water has not been endorsed by a major Jewish or pro-Israel organization.

TEXAS 7

Jewish population: 21,000 (3.01 percent of district population) 

Summary: This district is just west of Houston.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, who first won in 2018, faces retired US Army Capt. Wesley Hunt, a Republican.

Despite Omar’s antisemitic comments, Fletcher tweeted in March 2019, “The anti-Muslim vitriol directed at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is an affront—to her, and to all Americans. These anti-Muslim attacks and threats have no place in our state houses or our political discourse.”

“The same holds true for bigotry in all forms, and we must work together to combat it wherever we see it,” she added.

In the aftermath of the United States eliminating Soleimani, Fletcher said, “whether to declare war is a question the Constitution of the United States reserves for the Congress of the United States. And for good reason. The question of whether to send our children, and our neighbors’ children, to war is to be answered by the representatives of the people.”

Fletcher was part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran. She was also one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.  

Endorsements: Fletcher has been endorsed by DMFI PAC, while Hunt has been endorsed by the RJC.

TEXAS 32

Jewish population: 21,000 (3.01 percent of district population)

Summary: This district is in the central part of the state and includes parts of Dallas and Collin counties.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, who first won in 2018, faces off against Republican businesswoman Genevieve Collins.

In response to Omar’s antisemitic comments, Allred said, “I disagree with what was said. And I think there should be an apology.”

In response to the United States eliminating Soleimani, Allred wrote, “I watched along with the rest of the nation as our president authorized the killing of one of Iran’s highest-ranking generals and then threatened to destroy 52 sites ‘important to Iran and the Iranian culture.’ As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on the Middle East, I know this is not the Trump administration’s first erratic or impulsive foreign policy decision … America is exceptional because of our ideals the power of our values. Those values, and our own safety, are undermined when the president threatens war crimes and when we ignore our own constitutional system of checks and balances.”

Allred was part of the overwhelming majority of House members who called for extending the UN arms embargo on Iran. He was also one of 191 House Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year to the Israeli government expressing concern over it possibly apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.

Endorsements: Allred has been endorsed by JDCA, DMFI PAC and JStreetPAC, while Collins has been endorsed by the RJC.

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