It would take a political earthquake for Congressman Jerry Nadler to lose to his first primary challenger since 1996, but in a year of political earthquakes, the Democratic veteran is taking no chances.
The longtime congressman, whose represents more Jews than any other member of the House, has been campaigning hard as competition around the June 28 race has grown heated in its final days.
Nadler hit the campaign circuit this past weekend, appearing live on Talkline, the radio show hosted by Brooklyn Orthodox radio personality Zev Brenner, on Saturday night, and then riding a convertible down Manhattan’s 5th Avenue in the Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon. He spoke Monday at a ceremony dedicating the Stonewall Inn as a national monument.
The flurry of activity came as the Daily News editorial board endorsed Oliver Rosenberg, Nadler’s opponent, in a June 26 editorial slamming Nadler for his vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.
The editorial did not name Rosenberg until its penultimate paragraph, calling a vote for Rosenberg “a principled statement against an entrenched incumbent.”
Rosenberg also received an endorsement from the Brooklyn New York State Assembly member Dov Hikind, who represents the Orthodox-heavy district of Boro Park, where Nadler’s vote on the Iran deal was met with much anger last year.
Weeks ago, when asked by the Forward if he would back Rosenberg, Hikind declined to comment. But in an interview with Kings County Politics, Hikind said it was a “no-brainer” that he would vote for Rosenberg.
“In our community, I can’t imagine anyone voting for Nadler,” Hikind said.
In robocalls last week paid for by the Rosenberg campaign, the comedian Jackie Mason said that Nadler was “a little overweight” and that “you would never know he was a Jew.”
Nadler, for his part, has endorsements from The New York Times, President Barack Obama, among others. The Times, in its June 17 endorsement, said that Nadler is “enduring fierce and unfair attacks” for his Iran vote, and that he “deserves to be re-elected.”
Both candidates visited the studios of the public radio station WNYC on Monday morning for a debate on the Brian Lehrer Show. In a tense exchange at the end of the twenty minute debate, Nadler read tweets Rosenberg published in 2014 in which Rosenberg criticized President Obama, praised former president George W. Bush, and suggested he would support a Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
“Jerry Nadler will say or do anything to distract from his vote supporting a regime in Iran that murders gays, hates Jews and calls for death to America,” Rosenberg said in response.
Pressed by Lehrer to explain the tweets, Rosenberg said that he had felt pressure to conform to his family’s political positions when he was a gay closeted teen. But when asked by Lehrer if the 2014 tweets were issued under “pressure” from his family, Rosenberg tried to change the subject. Pushed again by Lehrer, Rosenberg said: “I was a Democrat trapped in a Republican body.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.