AIPAC vs J Street: The key midterms wins and losses for the pro-Israel groups
The 2022 midterm elections campaign cycle has seen rival pro-Israel organizations AIPAC and J Street at war with each other like never before.
This has largely been expedited by AIPAC’s formal entry into the campaign space, creating a political action committee that formally endorsed election deniers and otherwise controversial Republicans under the guise of protecting the U.S.-Israel relationship.
At the time of writing, J Street PAC has a record of 105 wins, 9 losses and 23 races that remain too close to call — more than half of the House Democratic pickups will be J Street PAC endorsees. AIPAC, meanwhile, said that more than 95 percent of its endorsed candidates were victorious.
AIPAC’s key Democratic frontliner, however, lost in her hotly contested race. Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, perhaps the most vocally pro-Israel Democrat in Congress, a key AIPAC ally, is projected to lose to Republican challenger Jennifer Kiggans. Her loss delivers a significant blow to the pro-Israel, national security-oriented wing of the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, an AIPAC source noted that it successfully supported 12 Democrats that defeated challengers endorsed either by J Street or Sen. Bernie Sanders. AIPAC is particularly excited about a diverse incoming pro-Israel freshman Democratic class, including names such as Robert Menendez Jr., Don Davis, Jared Moskowitz, Robert Garcia, Valerie Foushee and Glenn Ivey.
Other AIPAC-backed Democratic incumbents running tight races also emerged victorious, such as Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar in Texas, Angie Craig in Minnesota, Chris Pappas in New Hampshire and Kathy Manning in North Carolina.
AIPAC further publicly played up victories from Democratic candidates it supported against “anti-Israel” primary opponents such as Reps. David Scott, Morgan McGarvey, Shontel Brown, Lucy McBath and Haley Stevens.
A key J Street win was Summer Lee’s victory in Pennsylvania, who won despite AIPAC’s United Democracy Project Super PAC spending over $1 million in recent days to defeat her. The pro-Israel group involved itself after the race proved closer than anticipated, seeing a second chance to defeat her after failing to do so in the Democratic primary.
The House Democratic campaign arm rallied behind Lee, and national Republicans, in turn, not only targeted Lee but attempted to connect her with neighboring Pennsylvania Democrats running competitive House races of their own. None of AIPAC’s ads mentioned Israel, however, raising questions regarding its political experiment.
Other significant victories for J Street include John Fetterman’s victory in the Pennsylvania Senate race, Rep. Andy Kim’s successful reelection in New Jersey, Rep. Sharice Davids’ reelection in Kansas and incoming Democratic Rep. Seth Magaziner’s victory in a hotly contested Rhode Island battle. Two other notable J Street-backed Democratic pickups include Hillary Scholten in Michigan and Nikki Budzinski in Illinois.
Among J Street’s notable losses include two Senate races, where they backed Cheri Beasley’s unsuccessful bid against Republican Ted Budd in North Carolina and in Ohio, where they unsuccessfully backed Tim Ryan against JD Vance.
Its most significant loss, perhaps, was in Nebraska, J Street-backed Democratic challenger Tony Vargas was narrowly defeated by Rep. Don Bacon, whom AIPAC identified as one of its two key races.
This Nebraska house race underscored AIPAC’s political tightrope with political endorsements in competitive races. AIPAC flagged Bacon as among Israel’s most ardent vocal supporters, all the more timely given his seat has been identified as a key potential Democratic flip since he was first elected and has only grown more vulnerable since alienating Trump.
Bacon, who is not Jewish, provoked widespread opposition from the American-Jewish establishment after co-founding the congressional “Torah Values” caucus, which was criticized as a misguided effort in the fight against antisemitism. His district voted for Biden in 2020, and his seat became more vulnerable in recent months thanks to his support for a nationwide abortion ban without exceptions.
A key loss for both is the defeat of Rep. Tom Malinowski, the vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and considered one of the most important foreign policy voices in the House. He is considered to be one of the more thoughtful figures in Washington on the Middle East at large and Israel-Palestine, in particular. He is projected to lose to Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. despite being among the favorites of the U.S. Jewish establishment.
A big shared win, meanwhile, is Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s victory in Michigan. Slotkin is Jewish national-security oriented CIA veteran who has made Holocaust education and combatting antisemitism a key priority of her tenure.
She defeated an election-denying Republican and was undoubtedly buoyed by a late endorsement from Republican Rep. Liz Cheney. Both AIPAC and J Street endorsed Luria’s Virginia colleague, Rep. Abigail Spanbgerer, who was also endorsed by Cheney.
“In less than a year, the AIPAC PAC emerged as the largest pro-Israel PAC in the country – with more than 6,000 members contributing over $17 million through the AIPAC PAC for 365 Democratic and Republican candidates — affirming that being pro-Israel is both good policy and good politics,” AIPAC said in a statement, adding that “despite the fierce partisanship of this election cycle, there remains a resolute bipartisan commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
For his own part, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami stated that “J Street is deeply proud to only have supported candidates who back pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates who back democracy and diplomacy. We’re proud to be a political home and a voice for the large mainstream majority of Jewish Americans, who reject the ethno-nationalist extremism of the MAGA Republican movement and the hawkish, harmful foreign policy promoted by the right.
While we await the final outcome, it’s clear that this battle is just one round in a much broader fight. In the US, in Israel and around the world, those who believe in democracy, equality and universal rights will continue to struggle against those who promote ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism and fear. J Street and our movement remains fully committed to this work, in the months ahead, in the 2024 election and far beyond.”