12 Jewish (or Jewish-adjacent) races to watch in US midterms

In several key races Jewish candidates and Jewish issues will be central to which party wins and loses when the votes are counted

US Rep. and US Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is interviewed after rallying supporters at a get-out-the-vote canvass launch at a Nevada State Democratic Party field office on November 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rosen is trying to unseat Republican Dean Heller in a tight Senate race.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images via JTA)
US Rep. and US Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-NV) is interviewed after rallying supporters at a get-out-the-vote canvass launch at a Nevada State Democratic Party field office on November 4, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Rosen is trying to unseat Republican Dean Heller in a tight Senate race. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — Nationwide, Americans will be watching the electoral map to see if a “blue wave” sweeps Democrats to control of the House of Representatives, and maybe even the Senate, or if Republicans hang on to one or both houses.

And in a number of cases, Jewish candidates or issues will be central to which party wins and loses when the votes are counted.

Will former synagogue president Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, unseat Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada? Which Jewish candidate will win on eastern Long Island? Will Illinois and Colorado end the night with Jewish governors-elect?

Here are 11 candidates and (mostly) close races that Jews should watch as the night unfolds. (The forecasts come from the FiveThirtyEight political website.)


Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) vs. Perry Gershon (D), New York, 1st District

This race between Jewish candidates on the eastern end of Long Island has become a battle over President Donald Trump. Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, is an outspoken supporter of the president and has received his endorsement. Gershon reviles Trump and says a visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, inspired his run to combat authoritarianism.

The polls: A Democratic polling group, GBA Strategies, had Zeldin up by 6 points in early October. Late in the same month, the nonpartisan Change Research had Zeldin ahead by 15 points.

The forecast: Zeldin has a 93.5 percent chance of keeping his seat.

Lena Epstein (R), Michigan, 11th District

Epstein, a Jewish businesswoman with roots in the suburban Detroit Jewish community, raised eyebrows shortly after the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by inviting a defrocked Messianic rabbi to address a rally headlined by Vice President Mike Pence. Jews of all stripes don’t take kindly to the various “Jews for Jesus” movements. Epstein was the chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign in Michigan. She is running to replace Republican David Trott, who is not running for re-election.

‘Rabbi’ Loren Jacobs, of Bloomfield Hills’ Congregation Shema Yisrael, for the victims and families of those killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, at a rally for Republicans in Oakland County, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 (Screencapture)

The polls: RealClearPolitics’ polling average puts Epstein 3.5 points behind her Democratic challenger, Haley Stevens.

The forecast: Epstein has a 20 percent chance of keeping the seat red.

Elissa Slotkin (D), Michigan, 8th District

In this Oct. 26, 2018 file photo, Elissa Slotkin, the Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, listens to a question before a rally in Detroit. Slotkin faces incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Bishop in the Nov. 6 election. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Slotkin, who is Jewish, was raised on a farm and worked for the CIA. She is hoping to flip this district to blue and has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama.

The polls: RealClearPolitics has Slotkin up 2 points on her opponent, incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Bishop

The forecast: Slotkin has a nearly 67 percent chance of winning.

Kathy Manning (D), North Carolina, 13th District

Manning, a philanthropist, had a long career as a Jewish organizational leader before running for Congress in central North Carolina this year. She was the first woman to chair the Jewish Federations of North America and was a founder of Prizmah, an umbrella association for Jewish day schools.

The polls: RealClearPolitics has Manning trailing her opponent, incumbent Republican Rep. Ted Budd, by 4.5 points.

The forecast: Manning has a 38.7 percent chance of winning.

Kathy Manning had a long career as a Jewish organizational leader before running for Congress. (Kathy Manning for Congress via JTA)

Kim Schrier (D), Washington, 8th District

Schrier, a Jewish pediatrician, is hoping to flip this seat after the retirement of Republican Rep. Dave Reichert. She says she was partly inspired to run after seeing the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. She has been endorsed by Obama.

The polls: The New York Times has Schrier edging her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi, by 3 points.

The forecast: Schrier has a 67 percent chance of winning.

Elaine Luria (D), Virginia, 2nd District

Luria, a Jewish former Navy commander, is running in this coastal Virginia district that encompasses the Norfolk US Navy base. She once organized a Passover seder on an aircraft carrier. She’s trying to flip her district to blue.

The polls: RealClearPolitics has Luria trailing incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor by 5 points.

The forecast: Luria has a nearly 33 percent chance of winning.

Leslie Cockburn (D), Virginia, 5th District

Cockburn, a former producer for the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” has gained attention in Jewish circles as the co-author of the 1991 book “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship,” which harshly criticizes Israel. She is seeking to replace retiring Republican Rep. Thomas Garrett, a Republican who is retiring, in a district that includes Charlottesville.

Actress Olivia Wilde and her parents, producer Andrew Cockburn and director Leslie Cockburn, arrive at the premiere of American Casino during the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Sunday, April 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

The polls: A New York Times poll from mid-October had Cockburn in a virtual dead heat with Republican Denver Riggleman.

The forecast: Cockburn has a 46 percent chance of winning.

Rep. Steve King (R), Iowa, 4th District

King, who has a history of provocative statements, has made headlines recently for his associations with and support of white supremacists. He has endorsed Faith Goldy, a far-right candidate for mayor of Toronto, shared anti-immigrant rhetoric with a far-right publication in Austria and retweeted a neo-Nazi. Two Jewish leaders in his state condemned King in a letter to the Des Moines Register, and the National Republican Congressional Committee says it will not support him.

The polls: RealClearPolitics has King up by 7 points on Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten.

The forecast: King has a nearly 86 percent chance of keeping his seat.


Jacky Rosen (D), Nevada

Rosen, a former software developer, was elected to Congress just two years ago representing the Las Vegas suburbs. But her political experience didn’t start there: She is a former president of Ner Tamid, a Reform synagogue in Henderson. Former Rep. Shelley Berkeley, a Nevada Democrat, told The New York Times that “If you can be president of a synagogue, you can be president of the United States very easily.”

Rosen defeating Heller is a must if Democrats hope to retake the Senate.

The polls: RealClearPolitics has the race as a dead heat.

The forecast: Rosen has a 57 percent chance of winning.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D), New Jersey

Menendez is not Jewish, but is known as one of the most staunchly pro-Israel senators. He was one of two Democratic senators to vote against the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, opposing Obama and much of his own party. Menendez’s campaign has been tainted by his trial for corruption — a mistrial was declared last last year.

People hold banners as they attend a rally organized by the Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla in support of Senator Bob Menendez on November 4, 2018 in Hoboken, New Jersey.(KENA BETANCUR / AFP)

The polls: RealClearPolitics has Menendez up by more than 10 points over Republican challenger Bob Hugin.

The forecast: Menendez has a 94.6 percent chance of winning.


J.B. Pritzker (D), Illinois

Pritzker, a billionaire venture capitalist, is running to unseat Republican Bruce Rauner, himself a multimillionaire many times over. The race — surprise, surprise — is one of the most expensive in the country. Pritzker is a centrist Democrat who got into trouble for saving on property taxes by removing toilets from a home he owned.

The polls: Pritzker has led comfortably in all of the recent polls.

The forecast: Pritzker has an 84 percent chance of winning.

Jared Polis (D), Colorado

Polis, a former tech mogul who won election to the House of Representatives in 2008 when he was 33, will become the first gay and first Jewish governor of Colorado if elected. His campaign has focused on renewable energy, education and income inequality. He would succeed John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election.

Democratic candidate for Colorado’s governorship, US Rep. Jared Polis, responds to a question during a televised debate Monday, June 18, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The polls: Polis has led Republican Walker Stapleton by 5 to 8 points in recent polls.

The forecast: Polis has a 95 percent chance of winning.

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