Fresh Faces Among 32 Jews in New Congress
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is no closer to having a minyan. The majority leader will remain the sole Jewish member of his party’s caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a generally rough night for Republicans, the party’s top Jewish congressional prospects all went down to defeat to Democrats.
In Ohio, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, a former Marine, failed to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown. In Hawaii, former Gov. Linda Lingle lost in her Senate bid to Rep. Mazie Hirono.
On New York’s Long Island, businessman Randy Altschuler – seen as the best shot at adding a second Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives – was fended off by Rep. Tim Bishop, who had narrowly beaten Altschuler two years earlier. In a South Florida race pitting two Jewish candidates, Adam Hasner, the former majority leader in the state Senate, was defeated in his congressional bid by Lois Frankel, the former mayor of West Palm Beach.
Jewish Democrats, meanwhile, had cause to celebrate beyond President Obama’s victory.
The House Democratic caucus will feature some new Jewish faces: In Florida, aside from Frankel’s victory, former congressman Alan Grayson – a fiery liberal who had been unseated in the Republican electoral surge in 2010 – won a return ticket to Capitol Hill with his victory in an Orlando-area district. In suburban Chicago, Democratic business consultant and Jewish community activist Brad Schneider unseated first-term Rep. Robert Dold, a Republican. In Southern California, state Sen. Alan Lowenthal took a congressional seat spanning parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties.
In Rhode Island, first-term Rep. David Cicilline, a Jewish Democrat, held on to his seat. His reelection effort had struggled after embarrassing revelations about severe budget problems in Providence, where he previously had served as mayor.
Some Jewish Democrats, however, came up short. In a closely watched Senate race in Nevada, Rep. Shelley Berkley failed in her effort to unseat the Republican incumbent, Dean Heller. Berkley, an outspoken supporter of Israel who has had a long-running feud with Las Vegas casino tycoon and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, will leave Congress after 14 years in the House.
Rep. Howard Berman, a 30-year veteran of the House, lost a bitter redistricting-fueled, intraparty battle to fellow Jewish incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman. The campaign pitted two pro-Israel Democrats against each other in the San Fernando Valley congressional district with an intensity so ferocious that it became physical: Sherman briefly grabbed Berman at a debate.
While Berman enjoyed an overwhelming advantage in endorsements from congressional colleagues, leading elected officials and Hollywood machers, he did not fare well in the redrawn district, most of which had been represented by Sherman. Berman garnered only 39.5 percent of the vote to Sherman’s 60.5 percent. Berman’s influential position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is now up for grabs, and Sherman has said he would vie for it.
In New Jersey, several Jewish candidates challenging congressional incumbents went down to defeat. Democrat Shelley Adler lost her bid to unseat Republican Jon Runyan, a former pro football player who had captured the seat from her Adler’s husband, now deceased, in 2010. Democrat Adam Gussen, the deputy mayor of Teaneck, lost his long-shot challenge to Rep. Scott Garrett.
Media personality and Republican candidate Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lost to veteran incumbent Rep. Bill Pascrell by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Pascrell had defeated fellow incumbent Rep. Steve Rothman in a redistricting-induced Democratic primary.
The next Congress will have 10 Jews serving in the Senate and 22 members of the House – a decline from the 12 Jews elected to the Senate and 27 elected to the House in 2010.
Retiring lawmakers include Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), and Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who held a narrow lead in his race for mayor of San Diego.