Under attack by AIPAC, Jewish congressman turns to progressive allies
Andy Levin, a two-term Jewish congressman from Detroit, is getting help from his progressive allies as he pushes back against an aggressive campaign by pro-Israel groups. Levin is competing with Rep. Haley Stevens in a rare incumbent-vs.-incumbent Democratic primary to represent Michigan’s redrawn 11th Congressional District.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren held a get-out-the-vote rally for Levin on Sunday, and Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to visit Michigan on Friday for a joint rally with Levin and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is facing a primary in the nearby 12th District.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC, United Democracy Project, has already spent $3.3 million, mostly on negative TV and online ads against Levin in recent weeks.
Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, charged in a press conference on Friday that AIPAC is spending money, funded by some Republican billionaires, “to beat strong incumbents with strong values in an attempt to force their will.” He said the mass spending “could be the death knell to democratic elections.”
Pocan questioned why AIPAC chose to target a Jewish congressman they disagree with and not Marjorie Taylor Green, a Republican who said Jewish space lasers caused California forest fires, among other antisemitic comments. Greene handily won her May primary against a number of GOP challengers.
Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, who was involved in AIPAC back in the 1980s and is now head of the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Metro Detroit, said the formation of the super PAC is a “betrayal of what AIPAC always claimed to be doing” and is “beyond a shanda,” using the Yiddish word for disgrace.
Levin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, drew the ire of AIPAC and its allies for a bill he introduced last year that would advance the two-state solution and restrict Israel from using U.S. taxpayer dollars to expand or annex settlements in the occupied West Bank. Levin has also publicly defended his colleagues, Reps. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, who have been accused of antisemitism and openly support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
In an interview on MSNBC Sunday evening, Levin said, “AIPAC has completely gone off the rails and they are trying to end my career because I won’t fall in line with their view of what it means to be pro-Israel.”
A recent poll of 500 likely voters showed Stevens, who is not Jewish, with a 27-point lead over Levin in the Aug. 2 Democratic primary.
The Levin campaign dismissed the poll, conducted by Target-Insyght, as an outlier. Jenny Byer, a campaign spokesperson, said their internal polling, which she wouldn’t reveal, “shows a very tight race.”
Levin said he’s “super concerned” about AIPAC’s money having an impact on the election. Last week, AIPAC scored a victory in a Democratic primary in Maryland, helping defeat former Rep. Donna Edwards with a $6 million ad buy. J Street recently announced a $700,000 investment to boost Levin.
Levin said he’s confident he will win the Jewish vote, estimated at 8% of the electorate. But said he’s worried the “avalanche of money and blanket advertising” on television and on social media will determine the outcome.