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November 9, 2022 5:04 pm
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Pro-Israel Politicians and PACs Thrive in Red Ripple Election

avatar by Andrew Bernard

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a crowd at the US Embassy in Israel on May 28, 2019. Photo: Governor’s Press Office.

US Jewish organizations on Thursday celebrated the victories of pro-Israel Democratic and Republican candidates in the US midterm elections as a full-scale Republican ‘red wave’ failed to materialize in the House and the Senate remained too close to call.

Of the 365 candidates endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), 95 percent won their elections. The wins included a number of Democratic candidates in tight races that Republicans hoped to pick up in regions like South Texas and Virginia. AIPAC launched two political action committees to directly endorse and fund candidates for the first time last year, and said that it had spent $17 million in this year’s election backing pro-Israel Republican and Democratic candidates, including much of the incoming freshman Democratic class.

That spending often put it odds with J-Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization and which endorsed its own slate of progressive candidates. In the closing weeks of the race, AIPAC spent about $1 million to defeat J-Street endorsed progressive Democrat Summer Lee, who is endorsed by the so-called “Squad” of progressive congressional representatives — comprised of Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Cori Bush of Missouri — and who has been critical of Israel.

Asked at a Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh forum event in April of this year if Israel was an apartheid state, Lee said: “I don’t necessarily know that I know the answer to that.” Lee also said at the event that US aid to Israel should be conditional.

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Lee is predicted to win Pennsylvania’s 12th district, which would make her the only candidate opposed by AIPAC in both the primary and general election to win.

In gubernatorial races, New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul (D) held on against Congressman Lee Zeldin (R) in the closest governor’s race in nearly two decades. Despite endorsements from some Orthodox Jewish leaders for Hochul, Hasidic enclaves like New York City’s Borough Park and upstate Rockland County voted heavily for Zeldin, who is Jewish. New York City’s 48th Assembly District, which includes Borough Park, voted 88% for Zeldin, while Rockland County favored Zeldin by 12. Hochul carried the state overall by about 5%. Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, head of the Satmar Haredi community said on Wednesday that Trumpism had “brainwashed” the community and that his decision to endorse Hochul had been an “obvious one.”

“The future of democracy and abortion access were the top two issues driving the Jewish vote, and in key races, those issues delivered wins for Democrats,” said Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), in a statement. “The election results indicate that the Jewish vote was a key factor behind Democratic wins in close races around the country.”

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is set to defeat former Governor Charlie Crist by almost 20 points thanks in part to shifts among Hispanic and Jewish voters in Miami-Dade county, which had not voted for a Republican since 2002. 

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