Meet 10 Jewish candidates who could be elected to Congress for the first time this fall

 

November 4, 2022



WASHINGTON (JTA) — The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, a gay man in a conservative-leaning area, and a Black woman from California — all are among the nearly two-dozen Jews who are hoping to enter Congress next year.

Among the 46 Jewish nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives are 22 incumbents — 21 Democrats and a single Republican. (Five Jewish incumbents retired or lost a primary this cycle.) The remaining 24 are challengers or running in open seats. Using a number of nonpartisan sources, including the Cook Political Report and 270 to Win, we’ve selected what we believe are the 10 who have the best chance of being elected this fall. (No guarantees though!) Nine are Democrats and one is Republican. Here are their stories.

Hover over the candidates to learn more about them or scroll down to read the full text.

Robert Zimmerman, a communications consultant, is leaning into his identity as a gay man to win in New York’s 3rd District, which encompasses much of the north shore of Long Island. On his campaign website, he says his identity and “coming of age in the suburbs … a lonely and isolating place” helped forge a career dedicated to civil rights. It’s a bold posture in an area that has a substantial conservative-leaning population, and in an era in which anti-gay targeting has reentered the mainstream. The seat is opening because Tom Suozzi, the Democratic incumbent, is retiring. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates it as lean Democrat (as opposed to solid or likely). Zimmerman’s political heritage is solid New York Jewish: He has been a senior adviser to three of the state’s venerable Jewish Democratic congressmen, the late Lester Wolff, the late James Scheuer, and Gary Ackerman, who is retired.


Greg Landsman is a rarity welcome to Democrats this cycle — a viable challenger to a seated Republican. Because of redistricting in the state, Ohio’s 1st District incumbent, Steve Chabot, is vulnerable — Cook rates the election as a toss-up. Landsman, who has a master’s degree in theology from Harvard and participated in the Wexner Heritage Program for Jewish leaders, has said that his Jewish identity was a motivating factor behind his a successful run for the Cincinnati city council in 2017. “There is nothing about the Passover service that I don’t love,” he wrote in an essay published by the Wexner Foundation. “However, the ‘Elijah Moment’ and the discussion about freedom, fairness and justice stand out most for me.” Landsman once directed Ohio’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.


Seth Magaziner, a Democrat, is famous for being Rhode Island’s treasurer and for being the son of Ira Magaziner, a 1960s student leader who became a top domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. Now, Seth Magaziner could become infamous — for losing a district, Rhode Island’s 2nd, that has been solidly Democratic since 1990. Cook rates it a toss-up. His rival, former Cranston mayor Alan Fung, has garnered attention by leaning into the state’s struggling economy, to the extent that Democrats are pouring money and sending in heavy hitters to keep the seat, which is being vacated by Jim Langevin, who is retiring. Magaziner’s mother is Catholic, and he has said he is ethnically Jewish but does not have a religious identification. In 2017, he led the annual reading of George Washington’s letter to Touro synagogue, and in 2020, he cited his heritage when he removed the slavery-adjacent term “Providence Plantations” from state checks. If Magaziner wins, he would join David Cicilline, who is Jewish, to complete the state’s House delegation.


Jan Perry, a former Los Angeles councilwoman who is running to represent California’s 37th District, would be the first Black Jew elected to Congress. The election is complicated: Under California’s open primary system, the top two contenders face off in the general election, no matter the party, which means that Perry and fellow Democrat Sydney Kamlager, a state senator, are both nominees. (Incumbent Karen Bass is running for Los Angeles mayor.) Born and raised in Cleveland, Perry converted to Judaism in the 1980s when she was a graduate student at UCLA, telling an interviewer a decade ago (when she was in the middle of an unsuccessful run for mayor) that she was “on the hunt for something big. Why am I here? What is my purpose, my role as a woman, my role in society?” She told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal in 2001 that she was impatient with the requirement by her converting rabbi, the longtime UCLA Hillel director Chaim Seidler-Feller (based on Jewish law) that she be turned away three times before starting the conversion process.”I told Chaim that I didn’t have a lot of time, so he’d better throw everything he had at me at once.”


Alan Cohn, a Florida Democrat, is making his second run for Congress in two years, and this time media in the Tampa Bay area say the former newscaster has a shot. Cohn is running in the newly drawn 15th District, which leans slightly more Democratic than it did in 2020, when he lost to a Republican. He faces Laurel Lee, a former secretary of state, in what media say will be a bellwether of whether Democrats can retain their tenuous hold on the U.S. House of Representatives. As an investigative journalist, Cohn won a Peabody award in 2007 for exposing the use of defective parts in Sikorsky helicopters and an Emmy for his report on a convicted killer who wanted to become a Boston police officer.

Lauren Boebert is one of the most outspoken embracers of former President Donald Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election, and has angered Jewish groups with her promiscuous analogizing of the Holocaust to things she doesn’t like. Deemed a Christian Nationalist, she has flirted with the delusional QAnon conspiracy theory movement. Typically for an extremist, she was elected in a district, Colorado’s 3rd, that is seen as solidly for her party — except Adam Frisch, a self-described “moderate, pragmatic Jew” is nipping on her heels, tied with her within the margin of error according to at least one poll. The former Aspen city councilman told Jewish Insider that his “is a story that might resonate with a lot of people who have concerns” about Boebert’s alliance with extremists.

Florida’s 22nd District encompasses large chunks of Broward County, an area known for electing Democrats closely identified with the Jewish community — incumbent Ted Deutch just quit to lead the American Jewish Committee. Jared Moscowitz, the state’s former director of emergency management and self-described “master of disaster” is no exception. As a state representative, he took the lead in rebuking fellow Democrats as well as Republicans when he believed Jewish safety was at stake. Moscowitz, who flew to Israel as emergency director to pick up COVID-fighting tips, is known for reaching across the aisle — he has the rare distinction of being a Democrat Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis likes.

New York’s newly drawn 10th District encompasses ultraliberal enclaves in Manhattan as well as Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, so there was speculation heading into the August primary about whether it would veer left or center. Dan Goldman, a centrist Democrat, won by a squeaker. Goldman, an heir to the Levi Strauss jeans fortune, was for years a “TV lawyer” who offered expertise on daytime talk shows before drawing attention as the lead counsel for Democrats in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. His pro-Israel postures drew a contrast during the primary with a rival who for a while appeared to support Israel boycotts. He says he is raising his kids in the “modern Orthodox way.”

Max Miller, the scion of a famed Cleveland Jewish family, moved to the city’s exurbs to run in the newly drawn Republican-leaning 7th District. Miller made his name as a fixer during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and then carried over his skills to the Trump White House as an event organizer. He has Trump’s endorsement; his liberal-leaning family, perhaps not so much. A cousin, Daniel, wrote recently in the Forward that Miller represents a movement that poses a danger to the safety of American Jews.

Becca Balint, the majority leader in Vermont’s state senate, is running for the state’s single House seat as its incumbent, Peter Welch, vies for the Senate. She got a coveted endorsement from the state’s best-known Jewish politician, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who advised her to feed campaign crowds and to provide joyous music. One stylistic departure from Sanders, who for years was notoriously reticent to discuss his Jewish identity: Balint grounds her public service in the experiences of her father, a Holocaust survivor.

 

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