Ada Horwich’s Beverly Hills backyard was a sea of Democratic blue, from the tablecloths to the napkins next to the buffet spread. And many of her home’s windows proudly displayed blue 2016 “Hillary for President” stickers.
“The theme of today is blue,” Horwich, development chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), told the close to 90 invited guests. “That’s because we’re going to turn red to blue this November.”
The May 6 luncheon was a JDCA event held to discuss campaign plans and mobilize the local Jewish community to help Democrats reclaim the House of Representatives in the November midterm election. The special guest and main speaker was Congressman Adam Schiff.
Founded in 2017 by former Florida Congressman Ron Klein, JDCA is a political organization that actively promotes Democratic officeholders, candidates and legislative policies that align with its members’ Jewish values and support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“Republicans, for the most part, are not standing up to the president and are not fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities of representing us as Americans,” Klein told the gathering.
Contending that damage is being done to the country every day by the Donald Trump administration and its GOP supporters in Congress, Klein said it was imperative that either the House or Senate be returned to Democratic control come November. His talk focused mainly on Congress, where a net change of 23 seats this November would give Democrats the House majority. Referencing JDCA research, he identified 43 congressional districts with at least 10,000 Jews living in them.
“Other groups will appeal to African-American voters and Hispanic voters, but our focus will be specifically on the Jewish community,” he said. “The belief is that Jewish voters are good voters, but we drop off in the midterms like everybody else.”
Klein said he believes Jewish voters can impact close races. He cited the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where Democrat Conor Lamb won the seat by a mere 657 votes against his Republican rival Rick Saccone — despite the fact that Trump won the district handily in the 2016 general election.
Klein said that in the lead-up to the special election JDCA identified 11,000 registered Jewish Democrats in the area and did extensive outreach to them.
“I’m not going to tell you that we were the only ones that caused the election to go that way, but we contributed to that,” he said. “When you have that kind of margin, it’s clear that every vote counts.”
Klein later told the Journal that JDCA is planning future luncheons around the country, including in Chicago and New York, to drum up support ahead of the midterms and to meet the organization’s $2 million fundraising goal to fund more outreach.
“The impact we’re capable of having depends on the donations we get,” he said. “That will dictate our resources and bandwidth.”
Robert Meadow, a Democratic pollster with Lake Research Group, told attendees the message of “every vote counts” needs to reach the Jewish community throughout Southern California. Among the districts he mentioned was the 25th, which has a 5 percent Jewish population and includes Palmdale, Simi Valley and Lancaster.
He also cited the 45th and 48th districts, which cover parts of Orange County. Both have a voter base that’s 4 percent Jewish.
“Those are also very competitive districts where [Hillary Clinton] won, that are currently represented by Republicans where we have excellent Democratic challengers,” he said. “The Jewish population can make a huge difference.”
Congressman Schiff, a central player in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling, helped drive home the message of the importance of the November elections.
“I know you’ve heard many times that this is the most important midterm,” he said. “Well, this time it is. It’s not hyperbole.”
“As Jews, we should be as concerned as anyone about Russia’s actions as they fit into the context of a global move towards authoritarianism.” — Congressman Adam Schiff
Schiff said Jews should be “as concerned as anyone” about how Russia’s actions fit into the context of a global move toward authoritarianism. Still, he added, referencing avowed neo-Nazis running for public office in the United States and recent attacks on a free press, the threat from outside powers like Russia is “less than the threat from within.”
He said taking back either the House or the Senate come November is “the only way to put a check on what’s going on until that time comes when we can replace the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Other prominent community members in attendance included former L.A. City Controller Wendy Gruel, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and state Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern. Attorney Jesse Gabriel was also on hand to chat with guests ahead of his June 3 runoff in a special election to replace Matt Dababneh for the state Assembly’s 45th District seat, which represents much of the west San Fernando Valley.
Scott Racine, 67, a retired tax lawyer who lives in Gabriel’s district, told the Journal this was his first JDCA event. A lifelong Democrat, he came to see Congressman Schiff, an old acquaintance. He left encouraged by JDCA’s vision.
“I don’t want to get myself ‘kinehora,’ but this has me feeling optimistic about the upcoming midterms,” he said, invoking the Yiddish phrase that translates to “not the evil eye,” meaning essentially not to jinx. “There will be a lot of tight races,” he added, “and every little bit counts.”