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Campaigns begin Jewish outreach in California as primary draws near

Representatives of five Democratic presidential candidates will speak tonight at a Los Angeles-area synagogue as the campaigns begin outreach to Jewish voters ahead of the California Democratic primary.

The event at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Encino, organized by a collection of Democratic Jewish groups, will feature surrogates for the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and businessman Tom Steyer, an organizer told the Forward.

The event underscores how Jewish votes could be crucial in a historically-tight Democratic primary race. California awards its delegates to the Democratic National Convention proportionally based on success in each individual congressional district. Two suburban-L.A. districts — the 30th, which includes Encino, and the 33rd, which includes Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, are both nearly 20% Jewish, and there are an additional three districts in southern California and three more in northern California that have Jewish populations at least three times the national average, according to the Berman Jewish Databank.

The event is co-sponsored by two local groups, Democrats for Israel-Los Angeles and the Jewish Center for Justice, and two national groups, Zioness and Democratic Majority for Israel. DMFI’s political action committee reportedly spent nearly $700,000 on attack ads in Iowa against Sanders. Organizers from multiple groups involved said that they will disclose the ad to attendees, that only the local groups were involved in formulating the questions to the panelists, and that DMFI did not select or have any contact with the moderator, Rabbi Joel Simonds of the Jewish Center for Justice.

“In the spirit of transparency, we intend to make this process clear to the audience before the event begins,” Democrats for Israel-Los Angeles president Andrew Lachman told the Forward. He added that over 200 people had RSVP’d.

Sanders and Bloomberg, the two remaining Jewish candidates in the race, have also prioritized outreach to Jewish voters more than their competitors. They are the only ones with designated Jewish outreach directors. Sanders’s outreach staffer, Joel Rubin, will represent the Vermont senator, while Bloomberg sent his deputy director for Jewish outreach, Scott Richman. Buttigieg and Steyer will be represented by California-based campaign aides, while Biden’s backer is Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz. Representatives from the campaigns of Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota were also invited, according to the event page.

California’s presidential primary day is March 3, but according to Politico, more than half of Californians now vote by mail, with many choosing to do so days or even weeks before election day.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at pink@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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