The Ten To Watch in 2010

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 17, 2010, issue of February 26, 2010.
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The Forward’s list of 10 up-and-coming Jewish political hopefuls was compiled based on conversations with Republican and Democratic Jewish political activists. The list represents Jewish politicians who are either making their first steps on the national scene or are viewed as possible future leaders.

Some, like Democratic congressional hopeful Ted Deutch in Florida, are vying to represent districts where the Jewish vote is key, while others, such as Jay Ramras, an Alaska Republican running for lieutenant governor, are running in states or districts where Jewish voters are few and far between.

The Forward asked these 10 candidates why they got involved in politics and what their Jewish identity means to them.


Richard Blumenthal

Age: 64

Party: Democrat

Current position: Attorney general of Connecticut

Candidacy: Running for U.S. Senate to represent Connecticut

What made you enter politics?
“My parents instilled in my brother and me the understanding that we have an obligation to give back to the country that has done so much for us.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“It is very deeply rooted and encompasses who I am. My Jewish identity is something I value and rejoice in.”


Ted Deutch

Age: 43

Party:  Democrat

Current position:  Florida state senator

Candidacy:  Running for U.S. Congress to represent Florida’s 19th District

What made you enter politics?
“After years of working in the community — through the Jewish Federation and in the pro-Israel movement — and helping other candidates get elected, I saw an opportunity to make a real difference.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“I am a Zionist who belongs to a Conservative synagogue, studies with an Orthodox rabbi and feels comfortable in shuls of every denomination.”


Lee Fisher

Age: 58

Party: Democrat

Current position: Lieutenant governor of Ohio

Candidacy: Running for U.S. Senate to represent Ohio

What made you enter politics?
“My parents instilled in me the sense that the world is much greater than the street you live in and that you have a responsibility to repair your patch of the world.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“I would define it in two words tikkun olam — to repair the world.”


Paul Hodes

Age: 57

Party: Democrat

Current position: Member of U.S. Congress representing New Hampshire’s 2nd District

Candidacy: Running for U.S. Senate to represent New Hampshire

What made you enter politics?
Tikkun olam. What always moved me was helping change things that needed change.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“My Jewish identity is deeply present and essential to anything I do. I grew up in a secular Jewish family in New York City with deep roots, and our faith was an essential part of the fabric of our being.”


Beth Krom

Age: 51

Party: Democrat

Current position: Member of Irvine City Council

Candidacy: Running for U.S. Congress to represent California’s 48th District

What made you enter politics?
“I started attending City Council meetings out of concern over a proposal to turn a former Marine base into an international airport. Frustrated that city leaders weren’t doing what was necessary to stop the plan, I decided to run for City Council.”

How do you define your Jewish identity? “I’m very proud of the values I grew up with, emphasizing the importance of ethics, justice and tikkun olam.”


Josh Mandel

Age: 32

Party: Republican

Current position: Ohio state representative

Candidacy: Running for state treasurer of Ohio

What made you enter politics?
“One of my grandfathers was a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran and the other was a Holocaust survivor. These two men were very proud Americans who inspired me to join the Marine Corps and serve in public office.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“I am proud of our heritage and look forward to having the opportunity to pass our traditions on to future generations.”


Deb Markowitz

Age: 49

Party: Democrat

Current position: Secretary of state of Vermont

Candidacy: Running for governor of Vermont

What made you enter politics?
“As a college student, I got to know Vermont’s former governor, Madeleine Kunin. I remember how she encouraged me to run for office someday. ‘Deb, It isn’t enough for women to be at the table; we need to be at the head of the table,’ she said. I’ve kept those words in mind.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
Whether it’s my husband’s work as an environmentalist, or my job as a public servant, we strive to set a good example about the importance of tikkun olam.


Steve Poizner

Age: 53

Party: Republican

Current position: California state insurance commissioner

Candidacy: Running for governor of California

What made you enter politics?
“After 20 years in California I decided I can no longer sit on the sidelines. There is a meltdown in California, so I decided to jump in.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“My mother was a Hebrew teacher, and I grew up in a Reform home, very connected to my Jewish identity. I think my upbringing and my Jewish faith gave me the strength to dive into public service.”


Jay Ramras

Age: 45

Party: Republican

Current position: Alaska state representative

Candidacy: Running for Alaska lieutenant governor

What made you enter politics?
“The government was out of touch with the needs of everyday Alaskans. I was dissatisfied with what they were doing to the economy and with the state’s criminal justice system.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“In 1982 I took six weeks off work and built our synagogue — Ohr Hatzafon in Fairbanks. That is our home ever since.”


Doug Turner

Age: 41

Party: Republican

Current position: Private business

Candidacy: Running for governor of New Mexico

What made you enter politics?
“I have always believed quality leadership in government comes from the private sector.”

How do you define your Jewish identity?
“My Jewish identity is most clearly defined by the concept of tikkun olam. Life is short, and each of us has a responsibility to leave this world better off than we found it.”







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