By E.J. Kessler

Published January 14, 2005, issue of January 14, 2005.
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Three’s a Crowd?: After Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois was tapped this week to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, some observers were joking nervously that the Dems were stacking their leadership with too many big-city Jews. After all, Senator Charles Schumer of New York recently was named head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and last week, former Texas congressman Martin Frost of Dallas appeared to be emerging as the frontrunner for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

The joke centered on the so-called values question.

“[H]ave you heard the one about the political party that engaged in oodles of post-election bellyaching about values voters, rural voters and the potential electoral power of evangelical Christians, and then decides to tap two big-city Jewish guys to head up its efforts to win back control of the House and the Senate?” asked ABC News’s influential daily online political briefing, The Note, January 6 after word of Emanuel’s appointment leaked. “It’s pretty funny.”

Well, The Note can stop fretting. According to strategist Howard Wolfson, a former executive director of the DCCC, even the Jewish Dem trifecta of Schumer-Emanuel-Frost would have “no impact” on the party’s perception or chances among the electorate.

Analyst Chuck Todd, editor in chief of National Journal’s Hotline, concurs or sees a net plus for Dems. “I don’t think it’s really as big of a deal as some might make it out to be,” he wrote in an e-mail. “In all three cases, it’s happenstance; that said, the effect would probably be a net positive for the party as it pertains to the Jewish community. It may end once and for all this supposed flirtation some in the Jewish political community are having with Bush and the Republicans.”

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, noted that two of the three Democratic committees were led by Jews during 1997 and 1998, when Steve Grossman headed the DNC and Frost was at the DCCC. (Forman also might have noted that the Democrats were doing much better then than they are now.)

Grossman commented: “I actually think that people in the Jewish community have a special capacity to speak to people in the Evangelical community on issues of faith and values because the Jewish community so often has at its core values biblical and prophetic imperatives that would link them to the Evangelical community…. When I was sitting down with people in the Evangelical community when I was head of DNC, I would start with Isaiah and Deuteronomy.”

Grossman paused to recite a verse from Isaiah. (Can the incoming Republican National Committee chairman, Ken Mehlman — another “big-city Jewish guy” — do the same, we wonder?)

“People like Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel, Martin Frost if he’s elected, I would hope they would be equally comfortable with that language,” Grossman added.

* * *

Bible Booster: In a related item, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Houston lawyer who is the first Democrat to declare her candidacy for the Senate seat held by Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has pursued a philanthropic career that will hold interest for both Jews and Evangelical Christians: She’s a top giver to the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, and she sponsored the publication of a concordance scroll. The scrolls, the product of an ancient Jewish sect, the Essenes, are holy to both Jews and Christians, who study them for clues to their influence on the thought of Jesus.

“It’s been one of the most satisfying things imaginable,” Radnofsky said of her involvement with the scrolls foundation. “We hope to bring the scrolls to Houston.”

A much-published litigator who practices with the firm Vinson & Elkins, Radnofsky also is a regional vice chair of the Anti-Defamation League, directing its Hispanic outreach. She worships at Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue in west Houston. A frequent donor to Democrats in Texas and elsewhere, Radnofsky sometimes uses the catch phrase “tough name, smart dame” on the stump, according to Political State Report.

* * *

Bush Benefactors: Leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition collectively ponied up almost $1 million for President Bush’s inaugural, which will cost $40 million. Some $20 million has been raised so far for the event, mostly from corporations. Elliott Broidy and Sheldon Adelson each gave the limit, $250,000, while Sam and Marilyn Fox, Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus, Ilene and David Flaum, Ned Siegel and Marc Goldman gave $100,000 as individuals or couples.

LEADERSHIP POSITIONS: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, left, and Sen. Charles Schumer, middle, are heading two national Democratic committees. Former congressman Martin Frost, right, is vying to become the next chair of the DNC.

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