An effort to portray a candidate in a high-stakes Arizona Democratic congressional primary as anti-Israel doesn’t seem to have rallied local pro-Israel activists against her.
Kyrsten Sinema, a former Arizona state legislator and the only non-Jew in the three-person Democratic race, has been the subject of a handful of articles highlighting her past ties to liberal anti-war groups that have been harshly critical of Israel.
In a joint statement made with opponent David Schapira, an Arizona state legislator, Sinema struck back, accusing their opponent, former state party chairman Andrei Cherny, of being behind what the statement describes as “false attacks” on her Israel record.
“It’s this weird story that one of my opponents has decided he wants to tell,” Sinema told the Forward. “So I had to spend a lot of time telling folks… the truth.”
With the Democratic primary less than a month away, Sinema seems to have succeeded in parrying the attacks. In mid-July, one Arizona lobbyist with ties to the Jewish community and to the local AIPAC branch hosted an event for Sinema attended by members of the local Jewish community, some of whom donated to the campaign.
“All three of the candidates in the Democrat primary for congress in Congressional District 9 have relationships with people in the Jewish community, and all of them have supporters within the community,” said Ron Ober, founder of the Policy Development Group, the lobbyist who organized the Sinema event.
The Cherny campaign repeatedly refused requests to speak with the Forward for this story.
Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, Mesa and Phoenix, is a new seat carved out after Arizona gained a seat in redistricting following the 2010 census. The race for the rare open seat is considered wide open by analysts. Nine candidates are running in the Democratic and Republican primaries. The general election is projected to be a toss-up between the Republican and Democratic nominee.
The Democratic field consists of three high-profile Arizona politicans. Both Sinema and Schapira have represented parts of the district in the state legislature. Cherny, meanwhile, is seen as a fast-rising figure in the national Democratic Party.
Though Cherny has more cash on hand than his opponents as of the latest federal filings, Roll Call newspaper reported July 31 that Sinema is considered to be the race’s frontrunner.
Republican candidates for the seat have raised far less, raising Democratic hopes of grabbing thedistrict, where a majority of voters backed President Barack Obama in 2008. Travis Grantham, a local businessman, has had the most success fundraising of the six Republican candidates. Vernon Parker, a former mayor of Paradise Valley, lost a 2010 Republican congressional primary, but appears set to do well in this race, according to Roll Call.