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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 the 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 her Adler’s husband, now deceased, in 2010. Democrat Adam Gussen, the deputy mayor of Teaneck, lost his long-shot challenge to Rep. Scott Garrett.
Media personality and Republican candidate Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lost to veteran incumbent Rep. Bill Pascrell by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Pascrell had defeated fellow incumbent Rep. Steve Rothman in a redistricting-induced Democratic primary.
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.