With two weeks left to the midterm elections, races are heating up, and in some, what civility there was is fading fast.
In Illinois’ 9th District, indefatigable Republican Joel Pollak kept on going after incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky, claiming she was not supportive of Israel. It’s a theme that has been taken up against several Jewish Democrats by Republican challengers, or by the Republican Jewish Coalition on their behalf.
On Sunday, the two candidates met at a Skokie synagogue for a forum on Israel and other issues of interest to the Jewish community.
As it ended, Jan Schakowsky sent from her BlackBerry an email to supporters telling them about the event. “During the debate he actually said: ‘President Obama has made it ok to hate Israel,’” Schakowsky wrote about her rival, urging supporters not to let “this extreme rhetoric slide” and asking for “$10 or $20 to help me win.”
Pollak, meanwhile, issued a statement boasting his 3rd quarter fundraising, which brought in almost twice as much the incumbent. “Joel Pollak crushes Jan Schakowsky,” the statement read. Still, the young Republican is way behind in the polls. Both Pollak and Schakowsky are Jewish. Schakowsky is backed by the dovish J Street lobby and Pollak has been endorsed by the Harvard law professor and pro-Israel activist Alan Dershowitz.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the lively contest between Tea Partier Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway, has taken a twist down a new road and is now focusing on religion, or rather, the lack of.
Paul refused on Sunday to shake hands with his rival at the conclusion of a debate because of an attack ad issued by the Conway campaign that questioned Paul’s religious attitudes.
The TV ad claims Paul was a member of a secret society that “called the bible a hoax” and “mocked Christ,” and repeated an allegation going back to Rand’s years in college, according to which he once tied down a woman and forced her to bow to a god he called “aqua Buddha.” The ad then asks why Paul wants to end faith-based initiatives.
Paul’s response ad promised that “Rand Paul keeps Christ in his heart” and called the attacks against him “shameless, disgraceful, gutter politics.”
During the debate, Paul stuck to this line, stating he would not shake Conway’s hand at the conclusion of the debate. “I will not be associated with someone who attacks my religion,” he said.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The Rhetoric Turns Red Hot as Election Day Approaches