Congressional Races: Cantor Still A Soloist

Congressional Races: Cantor Still A Soloist

Republican Jewish hopefuls defeated, new faces for House Dems.

Rep. Eric Cantor will remain the only Jewish Republican in the next Congress after several candidates fell short in Tuesday’s election.

Jewish Democrats seeking congressional seats fared better in Tuesday’s election, however.

In New York’s 1st District in Suffolk County, incumbent Democrat Rep. Tim Bishop warded off a second challenge by Jewish Republican Randy Altschuler. While their 2010 match was so close the results weren’t determined for weeks, Altschuler conceded just after midnight Wednesday, with the vote count at 52 percent to 48 percent, according to Newsday.

Altschuler may have fared more poorly this time because of the poor showing for Gov. Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket.

“This is a presidential year, and certainly two years ago you had a wave of anti-presidential [sentiment] in the midterm elections,” said Mike Dawidciak, a political consultant on Long Island who was not involved in this race.

That sentiment may have harmed Bishop two years ago, but it was not a factor in a year when the president faced re-election, said Dawidciak.

In northern New Jersey, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a Republican, failed to win a newly drawn congressional seat in his match against Democrat Bill Pascrell, Jr. Early returns had Pascrell, an eight-term congressman, beating Boteach by as much as 75 percent.

“I bow to the majesty of the democratic process,” Rabbi Boteach told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview shortly after his concession speech. “Bill Pascrell is my congressman.

“I ran to focus on universal Jewish values and positions … The journey has been a tremendous one. I connected with communities in one of the most diverse districts in the country.”

In Florida, Democrats Lois Frankel and Alan Grayson won congressional seats.

Frankel, 64, a former member of the Florida House and an ex-mayor of West Palm Beach, defeated Republican Adam Hasner, a former majority leader in the Florida State Senate on Tuesday. Hasner is also Jewish.

Grayson, 54, a fiery liberal who had been unseated in the Republican electoral surge in 2010, returned to the House by defeating Todd Long in a newly created Orlando-area district.

In Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel failed in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republicans hoping to win control of the U.S. Senate had placed great hope in Mandel, a former Marine who is Jewish.

Brown is a strong ally of organized labor and a pillar of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
In Hawaii, former Gov. Linda Lingle, another Jewish Republican, lost in her Senate bid to Rep. Mazie Hirono.

In Rhode Island, first-term Rep. David Cicilline, a Jewish Democrat, held on to his seat. His re-election effort had struggled after embarrassing revelations about severe budget problems in Providence, where he previously had served as mayor.

Some Jewish Democrats, however, came up short. In a closely watched Senate race in Nevada, Rep. Shelley Berkley failed in her effort to unseat the Republican incumbent, Dean Heller. Berkley, an outspoken supporter of Israel who has had a long-running feud with Las Vegas casino tycoon and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, will leave Congress after 14 years in the House.

Rep. Howard Berman, a 30-year veteran of the House, lost a bitter redistricting-fueled, intraparty battle to fellow Jewish incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman. The campaign pitted two pro-Israel Democrats against each other in California’s San Fernando Valley congressional district with an intensity so ferocious that it became physical: Sherman briefly grabbed Berman at a debate.

While Berman enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in endorsements from congressional colleagues, leading elected officials and Hollywood machers, he did not fare well in the redrawn district, most of which had been represented by Sherman. Berman garnered only 39.5 percent of the vote to Sherman’s 60.5 percent. Berman’s influential position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is now up for grabs, and Sherman has said he would vie for it.

In New Jersey, several Jewish candidates challenging congressional incumbents went down to defeat. Democrat Shelley Adler lost her bid to unseat Republican Jon Runyan, a former pro football player who had captured the seat from Adler’s husband, now deceased, in 2010. Democrat Adam Gussen, the deputy mayor of Teaneck, lost his long-shot challenge to Rep. Scott Garrett.

The next Congress will have 10 Jews serving in the Senate and 22 members of the House — a decline from the 12 Jews elected to the Senate and 27 elected to the House in 2010.

Retiring lawmakers include Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), and Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who held a narrow lead in his race for mayor of San Diego.

“There seems to be number of efforts by Republicans to run Jewish candidates, but they tend to have difficulty on the federal level, the House or Senate,” said Steven Windmueller, professor of Jewish communal service at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.

“The number of Jewish elected officials at the federal level is dropping, and the 2012 election points dramatically to these losses. Therefore, the overall political clout for the community will be undergoing a fundamental change. With fewer members in the House and Senate, this marker of political influence will need to be recast.”

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