(November 4, 2020 / JNS) Despite comprising just 2 percent of the total U.S. population, Jews have always played an outsized role in politics.
In the outgoing 116th Congress, nine Jewish members served in the Senate and 27 served in the House of Representatives. Reflective of American Jewish voting patterns overall, every Jewish member of the Senate and 25 members in the House are Democrats or caucus with Democrats, with the exceptions of David Kutsoff (R-Tenn.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).
While Congress traditionally does not play a prominent role in foreign policy, support for the State of Israel has long been a bipartisan consensus view. However, with the election of several supporters of the BDS movement in Congress comes concerns about the erosion of support on the left. At the same time, Jewish congressional members also largely reflect the liberal and progressive views of the majority of Jewish Americans, with support for expanding access to health care, climate change, reproductive rights, racial justice and gun control.
Here is a breakdown of how Jewish candidates have fared so far in the Nov. 3 general election.
Note: Reporting percentages are based on the Associated Press.
All nine Jewish senators from the 116th Congress were not up for re-election and will continue to serve in the next Congress, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was the minority leader and could serve as majority leader if the Democrats gain control of the upper chamber. Several Jewish candidates did compete for senate seats in the recent election.
In Alaska, with 50 percent reporting, Independent Al Gross, who was supported by Democrats, has been trailing incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, who is expected to hold onto his seat with the former getting 31.2 percent of the vote and the latter receiving 63.6 percent.
In Georgia, with 95 percent reporting, Jon Ossoff, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018, has been trailing incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, 47.2 percent to 50.5 percent, respectively.
In accordance with Georgia electoral law, if no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held on Jan. 5.
In the Georgia special election to serve the remaining two years of the term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), with 94 percent reporting, Matt Lieberman, a son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), finished in fifth place with just 2.8 percent of the vote. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face reverend and pastor Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in the special election. Warnock received 32.2 percent of the vote, Loeffler got 26.3 percent, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) received 20.3 percent.
In Wyoming, as expected, Israeli American scientist Merav Ben-David lost to former Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis, 26.9 percent to 73.1 percent, respectively.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Unlike the U.S. Senate, each seat in the House is up for re-election every two years. For the incoming 117th Congress, the Democratic Party is expected to maintain control of the House with several Jewish representatives likely to retain key leadership and committee leadership roles.
Playing a prominent role during the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump, Rep. Adam Schiff was easily re-elected for California’s 28th Congressional district. He will be joined by Jewish Democratic Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Mike Levin and Brad Sherman part of California’s congressional delegation. Notably, Sherman has announced his intention to run for the head of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee after Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) lost in his state’s June primary.
In Florida, incumbent Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel defeated controversial Republican Laura Loomer, who is also Jewish, 59 percent to 39.2 percent, respectively. Frankel will be joined by Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Convention.
In Illinois, Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Brad Schneider easily won re-election. Schneider has been an outspoken proponent of maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.
New Jersey saw mixed results of Jewish candidates. Former construction consulting executive David Richter lost to incumbent Democratic Rep. Andy Kim, 43.9 percent to 55 percent, respectively. However, in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer defeated Republican Frank Pallotta, 57.8 percent to 41.2 percent, respectively.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee and also played a prominent role in the impeachment of Trump, easily beat his Republican opponent, Cathy Bernstein, 68.6 percent to 30.1 percent, respectively. He will likely be joined on the New York congressional delegation by Zeldin. However, Democratic Rep. Max Rose is on his way to being upset by Republican New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
Jewish candidates in Pennsylvania are seeing mixed results so far as well, with incumbent Jewish Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips beating his Republican opponent, Kendall Qualls, 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent, respectively. However, in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, with 85 percent reporting, businesswoman Lisa Scheller has been ahead of incumbent Jewish Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent, respectively.
In North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, Democratic attorney and small-business owner Kathy Manning—the first woman to chair the Jewish Federations of North America—defeated Republican Lee Haywood, 62.3 percent to 37.7 percent, respectively.
However, in Missouri’s 2nd District, Democratic State Sen. Jill Schupp lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, 45.4 percent to 52 percent, respectively.
Elsewhere, several other Jewish candidates are seeing success.
In Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth defeated Republican Rhonda Palazzo, 62.2 percent to 37.8 percent, respectively.
In Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin defeated Republican Gregory Coll, 64.6 percent to 35.4 percent, respectively.
Michigan will send two Jewish Democrats to Congress in the next term with incumbents Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and incumbent Democratic Rep. Andy Levin both beating back their Republican opponents.
In Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. David Cicilline won against two Independent challengers.
In Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District, incumbent Jewish Republican Rep. David Kustoff defeated Democrat Erika Pearson, 68.5 percent to 29.4 percent, respectively.
In Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen defeated Republican commentator Charlotte Bergmann, 77.4 percent to 20.1 percent, respectively.
In Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria won against former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, 51 percent to 46.5 percent, respectively. Luria and Michigan’s Slotkin are two Jewish members of the so-called “Gang of Nine” that are a group of moderate Democrats with security backgrounds.
In Washington’s 8th Congressional District, with 81 percent reporting, incumbent Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier has been leading Republican Jesse Jensen, 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent, respectively.