CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published October 17, 2003, issue of October 17, 2003.
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Holiday Howard: Former Vermont governor Howard Dean is visiting a sukkah in the Empire State.

The Democratic frontrunner will spend some time October 17 at the sukkah of Lincoln Square Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, mingling with Rabbi Adam Mintz and students. Afterward, he will repair to a room in the synagogue with a raft of Jewish communal leaders, including the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, and Jewish Council for Public Affairs chief Hannah Rosenthal.

“It’s an opportunity for him to hear from Jewish leadership,” said Dean’s Jewish affairs adviser, Matthew Dorf. “He’s going to be listening.”

The meeting, which comes a day before most of the presidential candidates are to appear before a national conference of the Arab American Institute, is being sponsored by Dean’s chief supporter in New York, Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Others expected to attend are Dean’s national campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, and former Clinton adviser Sara Ehrman.

* * *

Staying With Gray: California’s deposed governor, Gray Davis, maintained his strong support in the Jewish community, according to exit polling data collected by the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times poll, fully 69% of Jewish voters voted against recalling Davis October 7.

The figure demonstrates that the Golden State’s Jews remain a strongly Democratic voting bloc. California political hands, however, say that backing the loser won’t make much difference to Jews’ standing in the state.

“The Jews always have better relations [with government] when Democrats are in office,” said Democratic strategist Donna Bojarsky. “But a much bigger problem is that there’s no money. Social programs [administered by Jewish welfare agencies] are under attack.”

The figure for the Jewish vote is the polar opposite of the vote among the state’s non-Catholic Christians, 67% of whom cast their ballots to oust Davis, and it represents no change from the 69% support Jews gave Davis in 2002.

Catholic voters supported the recall by a 54% to 46% margin.

The state’s different religious groups also divided sharply on the question of which candidate they supported to replace Davis.

Of Jewish voters, 52% threw their support to the Democratic lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, while 31% voted for Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and 9% supported conservative Republican state Senator Tom McClintock.

Among non-Catholic Christians, 58% voted for Schwarzenegger, 28% for Bustamante and 18% for McClintock.

Catholics, a group that presumably contains many Latinos, went 46% for Schwarzenegger, 37% for Bustamante and 13% for McClintock.

According to Bojarsky, governor-elect Schwarzenegger has his work cut out for him. Running the state “is going to be far more challenging than he thinks it is,” she said. “He’s used to being able to get things done in an autocratic manner, and that’s so not Sacramento…. Democrats can’t let him do well in a presidential election year. There’s a lot of incentive to keep him busy and frustrated.”

Jews also overwhelmingly rejected a failed ballot initiative, Proposition 54, that would have prohibited state agencies from collecting data on individuals’ racial identities. While 64% of the state’s voters opposed the measure, a full 74% of Jews voted against it.

Jewish voters constituted 6% of the poll’s sample.

The poll was based on interviews with 5,205 voters from 74 precincts around the state.

* * *

Pricey Party: In what may be the most expensive political ticket in New York this season, the Republican Jewish Coalition is celebrating the opening of its Manhattan office with an “exclusive luncheon” at the “21” Club October 29 with President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Exclusive it will be — suggested contribution is $20,000, minimum contribution $10,000. So who can afford the price of that burger? Well, the folks whose names are on the invitation: Lewis Eisenberg, Sam Fox, Max Fisher, Ronald Lauder, George Klein, Morris Offit, David Flaum, Cheryl Halpern and Peter Kalikow, among others. Dietary laws will not be observed, but kosher food is available upon request.

* * *

Burned by Burns: Rep. Max Burns, a Georgia Republican, is apologizing to his local Jewish community after criticism that he stood by while a supporter called a potential opponent “that Jew boy down in Savannah.”

According to an account of the incident in the Savannah Morning News, Burns sat silently while businessman Jackie Sommers made the remark about potential Burns challenger Tony Center, a Savannah attorney, at a recent fish-fry fundraiser.

In a telephone interview with the Forward, Burns said he was “not in the stage area” when the impromptu remarks were made but that he and his wife had denounced the comments, which he called “unfortunate, inappropriate and unacceptable” to Sommers privately that day. Burns said he is drafting a letter to the editor of the Savannah newspaper denouncing Sommers’s comments and that he had called Jewish communal officials in his area to convey his apologies.

“I have an excellent record of being supportive of the Jewish community,” he said.

The news report produced an immediate reaction from Southern Jewish communal groups. This week, the Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Deborah Lauter, sent a letter to Burns saying the remark “deserved either an immediate rebuke by you when you got up to the podium or a public statement condemning the remark soon thereafter,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

* * *

Lady Laura: First Lady Laura Bush showed the soft side of the Republican revolution October 9, giving a 15-minute speech at a Bush-Cheney fundraiser at Manhattan’s Rainbow Room that emphasized the “compassionate” face of her husband’s “compassionate conservatism.”

Mrs. Bush, wearing a white suit with a big gold pin, appeared happy and confident, delivering her lines with what one Republican called a “mixture of twang and polish.”

She talked about her husband’s “No Child Left Behind” educational act, but spent the bulk of her speech praising a local program called New York City Teaching Fellows and the dedication of those who choose careers in the classroom. Make no mistake, however: This was a campaign speech in which she ticked off administration accomplishments, including education reform, “safer airports and harbors,” “tax relief for all Americans,” AIDS medicines for Africans, greater liberty for Afghan women and freedom for Iraqis.

The first lady avoided any overt partisanship, though, allowing the roster of dignitaries who introduced her to play the role of party booster. They were happy to oblige.

“It’s a great day for New York,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “The first lady is here, and she’s the toast of the town. The Red Sox are here, they’ll be turned into toast.” (They were.) The Boston native (and Yankees convert) added: “After the Democratic convention, Boston will have two losing teams.”

Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as has become his role at Republican events, praised Bush for leadership on September 11, 2001, “that got us through in a way that we were stronger.” He also crowed about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory in California, implying that the state would fall to the GOP ticket in 2004. “Now that California is in the bag,” he bragged, “we’ve got to make sure… that President Bush wins New York.”

Governor George Pataki also hailed Schwarzenegger, joking that “as of Tuesday, I’m the Republican governor of the second-most-populous state in the nation.”

Saying that “Democrats are on a losing streak that’s unprecedented,” Pataki pointed up what the GOP thinks is a Democratic weakness in a theme that undoubtedly will be heard in many Republican stump speeches in 2004. “We have a great team leading us in Washington that understands when we are attacked; it’s not the time to wring our hands and ask what we did wrong,” he said. “We were attacked because of what we did right.”

The conspicuously wealthy crowd seemed stacked with folks from Wall Street, Westchester and Connecticut, but it displayed two demographic features that should give New York (and national) Democrats pause: There were many, many Asians — who by most accounts are almost completely absent from local Democratic gatherings — and there were many more African Americans than one would expect given current black voting patterns.

In an unhealed rift, New York Asians have been on the outs with the Dems since the administration of Mayor David Dinkins, who in the minds of many in the Asian community handled a black boycott of Korean-owned stores poorly. But the pro-business and meritocratic orientations of many Asians make them ripe for Republicanism on several positive scores. It would be surprising if New York’s state and county Republican parties do not benefit in short order.

So, too, with the African-American middle and upper classes stealthily produced by late-20th-century capitalism: What is to stop these folks from sidling over to the Party of Lincoln?

Jews, most prominently of the strictly Orthodox sort, were also well represented at the gathering, which featured a kosher buffet as well as nonkosher offerings.






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