Florida Democrat, On the March, Chats With the Forward

State Sen. Ron Klein, who is in a very competitive race to unseat the GOP incumbent, Rep. Clay Shaw, in Florida’s 22nd congressional district, chatted with journalists this morning on a conference call arranged by the National Jewish Democratic Council.

For those keeping track of the Democratic campaign to pick up the 15 seats needed to take back the U.S. House, Klein’s race is definitely one to watch: It’s rated as one of the 19 House seats, currently held by Republicans, that are a “toss-up” for November, according to the Cook Political Report. In the local arena, the Broward League of Cities, an organization of the county’s municipal officials that has a tradition of backing Shaw, has taken the unusual step of giving its stamp of approval to both candidates.

For Jewish political observers, Florida 22 – which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties – is interesting because it has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish voters (somewhere around 25% of likely midterm voters, according to an NJDC estimate) of any congressional district with a Republican incumbent. Shaw is seen as weak on church-state issues, with an 84% approval rating from the Christian Coalition in 2002.

Klein, who has represented the Boca Raton area in the state legislature since 1992, has passed a Florida Holocaust education bill, established a foreign trade office in Israel, and helped fight off school prayer bills during his time in office. He’s calling for troop withdrawals from Iraq, in contrast to Shaw’s stay-the-course position.

When asked if he supported Feinstein and Leahy’s failed Cluster Munitions Amendment (see our pages from last week, as well as this week’s follow-up), Klein was reluctant to give a definitive yes or no answer, but he had this to say:

“I think Israel has been responsible over the years; they make mistakes, they’re the first to admit that. Unforunately, they’re fighting an enemy in Hezbollah that puts its rockets in mosques and apartment buildings and then claims Israel is going after civilian populations. I think if we flip it the other way and reliaze that 100% of Hezbollah’s efforts were aimed at civilian communities and indivials, we can get a better perspective .. I think Israel is well within its bounds … they obiously have to deal with the public relations of what goes on, but they need to be taking care of themselves. There’s no one else that’s going to do that for them.”

Sounds like a “No” to me … which is interesting because Democrats supported the measure 29-15, while all 55 Republicans opposed it.

The NJDC call also included a talk with Tim Mahony, a Republican-turned Democrat who is challenging Republican Rep. Mark Foley for Florida’s district 16 seat. Here’s what Mahony had to say about fixing the mess that is Iraq:

“We can win the war in Iraq, but this can only happen if [Bush] has the ability to do what his dad did and that is to create a multi-national effort – nations in the region – that will replace American peacekeepers with Muslim peacekeepers with the support of America both economically and militarily.”

Aren’t we essentially trying to do that with the Iraqi troops? I’m all for piling on the criticsm of Bush’s Middle East Debacle, but Democrats have to keep it real themselves. NATO is sweating to get its member groups to commit to sending more troops to Afghanistan.

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Florida Democrat, On the March, Chats With the Forward

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