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A guide to the 23 Jewish Democratic incumbents running in US election

Candidates looking to retain their seats in the House of Representatives include party leaders Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler; most races are not competitive, but a few are toss ups

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., front left, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and other House impeachment managers, walk to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., front left, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and other House impeachment managers, walk to the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

JTA — Two Jewish Democrats are retiring from Congress this year, and one is being forced out after he lost his primary. But that leaves 23 incumbent Jewish Democrats seeking to hold onto their seats in the House of Representatives in next week’s election.

They join four Senate candidates, 10 Republican House candidates and 11 first-time Democratic challengers vying for spots in the Jewish delegation in the next Congress.

As is the case for the vast majority of congressional districts, most of the races are not competitive. But at least a few are.

Here’s a full guide to the incumbent Democrats looking to secure their seats on Tuesday.

California

Adam Schiff, 62
28th District, including West Hollywood and Burbank

Background: Schiff, who has been in Congress since 2001, is the current chair of the House Intelligence Committee and led the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. With a large Armenian representation in his district, Schiff also continues to be the foremost lawmaker advocating for recognition of the 1915 Ottoman-era massacres as a genocide, and he has said his Jewish sensibility is one reason for his advocacy.

Big issue: A fixture on cable news, Schiff reminds Americans of Russia’s efforts to get Trump elected in 2016 and reelected this year. Trump despises him, has called for his prosecution and jailing, and calls him “Little Adam Schiff,” although Schiff is 6 feet tall, and “Shifty Schiff,” a moniker seen by some as anti-Semitic.

Backers: DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA

Odds: Schiff is a shoo-in.

Brad Sherman, 65
30th District, including the San Fernando Valley and Simi Hills in the Los Angeles area

Background: In Congress since 1997, Sherman is in the running to become the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, replacing New York’s Eliot Engel, who was primaried out of his job this summer. He is competing for the post with Joaquin Castro of Texas and Gregory Meeks of New York. Sherman has also been a lead sponsor of legislation commemorating the Holocaust, countering anti-Semitism, and protecting Israel’s qualitative military edge. In 2011, he introduced a bill to keep cities from banning circumcision after San Francisco considered the prohibition. He was spurred into action in part by an anti-Semitic cartoon villain, “Monster Mohel.” (And you have not existed in Washington until you’ve heard him say he’s from the “best-named town in California, Sherman Oaks.”)

Big issue: Sherman is a foreign policy hawk and is close to the mainstream pro-Israel community. He was among the minority of Democrats who voted against the Iran nuclear deal, and he was on the board of the Israel Project when it was a powerhouse in the 2000s. He is passionate about foreign affairs and has chaired two subcommittees, on terrorism and on Asia.

Endorsements: DMFI PAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: FiveThirtyEight, the polling site, gives Sherman a greater than 99 in 100 chance of winning over his Republican challenger, Mark Reed.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

Alan Lowenthal, 79
47th District, including Long Beach and parts of Orange County

Background: Lowenthal has served in Congress since 2013. He led passage last year of a resolution recommitting Democrats to a two-state solution, timed to send a signal to the Trump administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who were moving away from the outcome. He endeavored to bring Republicans on board, but only five signed on. His kids recall singing Bob Dylan songs on Shabbat. One of his sons, Josh, has lived in Israel, and when Josh ran for state assembly he was the target of an anti-Semitic ad, for which his opponent apologized.

Big issue: Repairing and building infrastructure while maintaining environmental protections.

Odds: 538 gives Lowenthal a greater than 99 in 100 chances of defeating John Briscoe, a Republican.

Mike Levin, 42
42nd District, covering the northern part of San Diego County

Background: Levin is an environmental attorney, and as a freshman seeking his second term, he scored coveted positions on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Select Committee on the climate crisis.

Big issue: Climate change.

Endorsements: Barack Obama, DMFI PAC, J Street, JACPAC, JDCA

Odds: The San Diego Union-Tribune says Levin is “comfortably” ahead of his opponent, Brian Maryott, in a district that has until recently trended Republican.

Florida

Lois Frankel, 72
21st District, which stretches along the coast from Delray Beach in the south to West Palm Beach

Background: Serving in Congress since 2013, Frankel has fund-raised off the extremist views of her opponent, Laura Loomer. “It’s our big chance to set the record straight in a sea of lies and conspiracy theories spread by my far-right extremist opponent,” Frankel said in a fund-raising pitch. (Loomer, who is Jewish and a self-described “Islamophobe,” won the vote of Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago estate is in the district.) Frankel likes to mentor freshman congresswomen and originated the idea of having women who attend the State of the Union wear all white, in a salute to the suffragists who secured women’s right to vote a century ago.

Big issue: Top issue on her campaign website is “women’s issues.” That includes reproductive rights, fair pay and combating sexual harassment.

Endorsements: DMFI PAC, JACPAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: Frankel will likely be wearing white at the next State of the Union; a poll this month had her leading Loomer 2-1.

Ted Deutch, 54
22nd District, which stretches up the southern Atlantic coast from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton

Background: A congressman since 2010, Deutch chairs the House Ethics Committee, one of the most sensitive positions in Congress. Members assess alleged improprieties. Last year, he led an effort to condemn remarks by fellow House member Ilhan Omar of Minnesota that were seen as anti-Semitic and was frustrated when the resolution was watered down.

Big issues: Deutch entered Congress with foreign policy legislative experience; as a state legislator he authored one of the first bills divesting state pensions from Iran. Foreign policy remains an interest — he chairs the Middle East subcommittee — but when a gunman killed 17 people at Parkland High School in his district in 2018, Deutch became the legislative face of gun control, sponsoring an assault weapon ban.

Endorsements: DMFI PAC, JACPAC, Pro-Israel America, NORPAC

Odds: Deutch is not in danger of losing to his Republican opponent, Jim Pruden.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks during a news conference after touring in the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, June 23, 2018, in Homestead, Florida. (AP/Brynn Anderson)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat, 54
23rd District, north of Miami

Background: In Congress since 2005, Wasserman Schultz chaired the Democratic National Committee from 2011 to 2016. She quit in the summer of 2016, months ahead of the election, after hacked DNC emails revealed disparaging comments about Bernie Sanders, the Jewish Vermont senator who had challenged the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, for the nomination. Her prominence led a rabid Trump fan who was targeting prominent liberals with pipe bombs to try and implicate her in the attacks. Before all of that, Wasserman Schultz led the passage of the law that made May Jewish American Heritage Month and she still takes a leading role in celebrating it. She also joins the senior Jewish Republican in Congress, Lee Zeldin, in mounting a bipartisan Hanukkah Party each year at the Library of Congress.

Big issues: There’s no single issue. Wasserman Schultz is a leader in the Democratic caucus, chairing the powerful Military Constructions and Veterans Affairs subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, and serving on the Oversight Committee. She is one of the caucus’s chief deputy whips.

Endorsements: DMFI PAC, JACPAC

Odds: In a solid blue district, Wasserman Schultz is seen as a shoo-in against her Republican challenger, Carla Spalding.

Illinois

Jan Schakowsky, 76
9th District, covering Chicago’s northeastern suburbs

Background: Schakowsky has served in Congress since 1999, where she is a leading progressive and mentors younger members. She was one of the first Congress members to accept an endorsement from J Street, and she boycotted Netanyahu’s controversial 2015 Iran policy speech to Congress. Last year, she reached out to Omar after she made statements seen as anti-Semitic. They cowrote an op-ed and made appearances calling for Jewish-Muslim unity in the face of rising bias crimes.

Big issue: No single issue. She’s the dean of progressives in Congress, serving as one of the caucus’s chief deputy whips and maintaining a close relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Backers: Bend the Arc Jewish Action, JACPAC, J Street, Our Revolution

Odds: A Republican named Sargis Sangari, is mounting a challenge, but Schakowsky’s not going anywhere.

Brad Schneider, 59
10th district, covering Chicago’s northern suburbs

Background: Schneider was first elected to represent the 10th District in 2012, only to lose after a single term. He was reelected in 2016. Schneider has served as a lay leader in the Jewish United Fund, Chicago’s main Jewish philanthropy, and the American Jewish Committee.

Big issue: Jewish and Israel issues. Schneider is a trustee of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is out front on pro-Israel legislation, recently introducing legislation that would give Israel a voice in US arms sales to the Middle East. Schneider was one of four House members who this year initiated a letter to Israel’s leaders opposing any annexation of the West Bank. The other three were Schakowsky, Deutch and David Price of North Carolina. The role of Deutch and Schneider was significant: They are pro-Israel stalwarts, and the letter, which eventually garnered 191 of 233 Democrats’ signatures sent a clear message to Netanyahu that he would garner virtually no Democratic support for annexation.

Endorsements: Bend the Arc Jewish Action, DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA, NORPAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: Schneider has substantially increased his hold on the district since returning to Congress in 2017, winning by almost two thirds in the last election. He is seen as a shoo-in against his opponent Valerie Mukherjee.

Kentucky

John Yarmuth, 72
3rd District, covering metropolitan Louisville

Background: In Congress since 2007, Yarmuth chairs the House budget committee. He’s also the 14th best golfer in Washington, DC, according to Golf Digest, and a member of the family that owns the Sonny’s BBQ chain, at one time the largest BBQ chain in the US. The restaurants his family owns directly pay more than the minimum wage, but other franchises do not, a fact that Republicans have tried to use against him when he has argued for raising the minimum wage. Yarmuth was a vocal critic of Trump after the first debate, where Trump told an extremist group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.” (Trump later said he meant to condemn the group.) “‘Stand back and stand by’ isn’t a condemnation, it’s an order from a superior,” Yarmuth said in a statement.

Big issue: Spending. If there’s a Democratic sweep next month he told Politico that he predicts big spending, particularly on infrastructure, at a cost that could eventually surpass $1 trillion.

Endorsements: J Street

Odds: Rhonda Palazzo, a Republican, is mounting a campaign against him, but Yarmuth has consolidated his hold on a district that has become more liberal over the years, and won his last election with 62 percent of the vote. He won’t be washing dishes at Sonny’s anytime soon.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool

Maryland

Jamie Raskin, 57
8th District, which stretches north from Washington DC toward the Pennsylvania border

Background: A constitutional scholar, Raskin has served in Congress since 2017 and is known for his energetic, polite probing of witnesses appearing before the Judiciary Committee. Last year, he said he read a book about impeachment every two days heading into the Judiciary Committee portion of the hearings. When Raskin signed on for a program last summer that brings young Israelis and Palestinians to Congress to intern, he was the first congressman to ask for one of each, telling JTA, “I’m a middle child and I’m always drawn to the efforts to bring people together.”

Big issue: Raskin would like to see Congress play the role it is guaranteed in the Constitution. “I know that this is dogma in fifth-grade social studies classes across the country, but we are not a coequal branch of government [to the president],” he told the nation. “We are the primary and predominant branch of government, and my colleagues need to understand that.”

Endorsements: J Street, JDCA, Our Revolution

Odds: Raskin won close to 70% of the vote in the last election. He is considered safe to keep his seat against Gregory Coll, his Republican challenger.

Elissa Slotkin before a rally in Detroit, October 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Elissa Slotkin, 44
8th District, which stretches from Detroit’s western suburbs to Lansing

Background: A freshman congresswoman, Slotkin is a pothole politician, working her district and attempting to find solutions, particularly for veterans who are not getting the healthcare they need. But her life experience, as a CIA analyst and then as a staffer on defense issues for the Bush and then the Obama administrations, has nudged her into a national security role within the Democratic caucus that she has told reporters she did not anticipate. Like many Democratic moderates who must appeal to crossover Republicans, Slotkin had resisted calls to impeach Trump, until he was caught attempting to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden. Trump’s perceived disloyalty to American interests appalled Slotkin, who joined four other freshman congresswomen with national security cred in saying they had changed their minds on impeachment. It was a historic decision: With the self-described “badass caucus” on board, Pelosi felt she had the numbers to impeach.

Big issue: Healthcare. Slotkin told JTA in 2017 she was running principally because she was appalled that the Republican incumbent voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. She recalled the tens of thousands of dollars her late mother had to pay when she found out she had ovarian cancer and that her insurance had lapsed.

Backers: Obama, DMFI PAC JACPAC, JDCA, J Street

Odds: The Cook Political Report rates the District as “lean Democratic.” Slotkin is fighting for every vote against Paul Junge, a Republican. Politico’s Tim Alberta sees the district as a national bellwether, and Slotkin has allowed him an unusually intimate look at her campaign.

Andy Levin, 60
9th District, which encompasses Detroit’s northern suburbs

Background: A freshman congressman, Levin is the scion of a Michigan political family: he took over the seat when his father, Sander, retired, and his uncle was longtime Senator Carl Levin. Levin works closely on Michigan issues with Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian American representing a neighboring district who says Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. He joined with Raskin last year in convening a gab session of Jewish and Muslim Democratic members so they could better understand one another.

Big issues: Human rights, workers’ rights and equity. The first thing he mentions in his congressional biography is his background as a union organizer. He has cast the coronavirus pandemic as a human rights issue. “COVID-19 is laying bare the most fundamental injustices in our country: that working people have not gotten a fair shake for generations and that people of color are disproportionately impacted by crises because of systemic inequities,” he told The Oakland Press recently.

Backers: J Street, Our Revolution

Odds: Levin and his dad have kept Democratic margins in the District at about 60-40 for years, so expect a reelection over his Republican opponent Charles Langworthy.

Minnesota

Dean Phillips, 51
3rd District, covering suburbs west of Minneapolis-St. Paul

Background: A first-term congressman, Phillips is the step-grandson of the “Dear Abby” columnist Abigail Van Buren and Minnesota Jewish proud. This week, he took to the floor to commemorate legendary Minnesota sportswriter Sid Harman, who died at 100, and who met an awestruck Philips when Philips was a child. “A child of Jewish immigrant parents who grew up in North Minneapolis in the 1920s, Sid sold newspapers on downtown street corners — unwittingly beginning what would become a 75-year career in the news business,” Phillips said. He gets along with his fellow Minnesota Democrat Omar, but at an emotional getting to know you meeting last year between Jewish and Muslim Democrats in the House, he called on her to apologize for remarks seen as anti-Semitic.

Big issue: Campaign finance reform. He is backing legislation that would mandate increased disclosure of spending on campaigns and reductions in the amount spent. His slogan is, “No matter your number one issue, I ask that you make campaign finance reform your number two.”

Backers: DMFI PAC, JDCA

Odds: Kendall Qualls, a Republican, is running against Phillips, but Real Clear Politics ranks the district safe Democratic.

New Jersey

Josh Gottheimer, 45
5th District, which stretches from New York’s northern New Jersey suburbs to the northwestern rural corners of the state

Big issue: Gottheimer is in his sophomore term, but he’s something of a throwback in focusing much of his energies not on the national issues that garner attention for other lawmakers, but on getting services to his district. A good chunk of his congressional website is a how-to manual on extracting services from the federal government.

Gottheimer’s other claim to fame is forming in his freshman term the Problem Solver’s Caucus, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Party bosses ignore the recommended compromises, true, but Gottheimer gets to tell constituents in his once ruby-red district that hey, he’s trying to bang heads.

Gottheimer is also among the caucus’s most hawkish pro-Israel members, a nod in part to the Orthodox constituents in Teaneck and its environs. He advocates for increased security grants for synagogues and other vulnerable institutions in his district, and has a knack for knowing which state and federal officials to get on the phone to deliver the goods.

Endorsements: Obama, DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA, NORPAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: The Cook Political Report includes the 5th in its 90 or so “competitive races,” but lists it as “likely Democratic.”

New York

Jerry Nadler, 73
10th District, which runs along the Hudson River from midtown to downtown Manhattan and stretches into Brooklyn, including Borough Park and Bensonhurst

Big issue: Civil rights. The yeshiva-educated Nadler, who has been in Congress since 1992, is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and has used his perch to examine Trump administration policies aimed at rolling back rights for undocumented immigrants and for the LGBTQ community. He was also second in command to Adam Schiff in leading the Trump impeachment hearings last year.

Endorsements: Bend the Arc Jewish Action, DMFI PAC, J Street

Odds: Nadler’s past wins run between 80 and 90%. Shoo-in.

Democratic challenger for the 11th Congressional District seat Max Rose debates in New York, October 16, 2018. (Bill Lyons/Staten Island Advance via AP, Pool)

Max Rose, 33
11th District, which covers all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn

Big issue: Restoring faith in government. In a profanity-laced interview last year with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, the veteran Rose said he resents what he calls the elitists who look down at government.

Rose, a staunch pro-Israel Democrat in a conservative district, makes no bones about attacking Democrats when he thinks it necessary, and the same with standing with Republicans. “When [New York Mayor] Bill de Blasio tried to defund the police, I said it was 100% wrong,” he says in an ad now running. And in a debate last week with his Republican challenger, Nicole Malliotakis, he noted “When Donald Trump announced his executive order on anti-Semitism, I was one of the few people to stand right there with him — right during the height of the impeachment.”

Endorsements: Barack Obama, DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA, NORPAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: Pollsters rate this a toss-up.

Oregon

Suzanne Bonamici, 66
1st District, which includes Portland and runs north and west to the Pacific coast

Big issue: Education reform. She led an effort to streamline the No Child Left Behind Act passed during the George W. Bush administration, and to replace what had come to be seen as a system that relied excessively on testing.

Bonamici’s husband is Michael Simon, whose uncle was the playwright Neil Simon. The couple gets royalties from the sitcom “The Odd Couple.” Neil Simon gave his brother, Danny Simon — Michael’s late father — a cut because Neil based the neatnik show character Felix Unger character on him.

Endorsements: J Street

Odds: Bonamici has routinely won since 2012 in the 60% range.

Pennsylvania

Susan Wild, 63
7th District, encompassing the Lehigh Valley

Big issue: Healthcare. The freshman has worked with Republicans in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to improve federal support for first responders and to cut prescription prices for children.

She is facing a Republican Jewish challenger in a district better known for its Amish population than its Jewish minority. Their debate last week hosted by the Jewish Forum of Lehigh Valley, captured the divide between Republican and Democratic Jews: Lisa Scheller, the Hebrew-fluent Republican, talked about Israel and Zionism. Wild agreed that Israel’s security was a critical issue, and rejected the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, but pivoted to the threat posed by white nationalism. “The guards at our synagogues, they’re not there to protect us from BDS supporters, though I do condemn that movement,” she said, according to The Morning Call. “They are there to protect us from the violent, right-wing extremists who murdered Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue.”

Endorsements: Obama, DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA

Odds: Scheller is mounting a competitive campaign, but the Cook Political Report rates this race likely Democratic.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

Rhode Island

David Cicilline, 59
1st District, covering most of Providence and some of its environs

Big issue: Big tech’s monopoly. Cicilline, who has been in Congress since 2011, chairs the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee. In a rare instance of bipartisanship Cicilinne this summer united Democrats and Republicans on his committee in launching an antitrust investigation into the big four: Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.

Endorsements: Bend the Arc Jewish Action, J Street, JACPAC, JDCA, Pro-Israel America

Odds: He’s unopposed!

Tennessee

Steve Cohen, 71
9th District, which includes much of Memphis and its environs

Big issue: Racial justice. Cohen, the only white person in Congress to represent a majority-Black district, is the chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. He has pushed forward at least five bills that would address police violence and criminal justice reform.

Cohen, who has served in Congress since 2007, also co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Relations. He has Sephardic roots in the Ottoman empire.

Cohen shares representation of Memphis with Republican David Kustoff, which means the entire metropolis is represented in Congress by Jewish lawmakers. Memphis’s Jewish population is probably not too far north of 10,000.

Endorsements: Bend the Arc Jewish Action, J Street, Our Revolution

Odds: Cohen defeated Republican Charlotte Bergmann in 2018 with 80% of the vote, and that’s not likely to change.

Virginia

Elaine Luria, 45
2nd District, which covers the central coastal areas, including the city of Virginia Beach

Big issue: Luria, a retired Navy commander, is the chairwoman of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee; a subcommittee chairmanship is remarkable for a freshman, but she represents Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base, and veterans are disproportionately represented in the district. One of the bills she is advancing would promote US-Israel collaboration on treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Luria is a member of the “badass caucus,” five freshman congresswomen with backgrounds in national security who were not pro-impeachment until after learning that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his rival, Joe Biden. She also probably has the most right-leaning pro-Israel politics in the Democratic caucus, declining for instance to join recent initiatives by her colleagues to press Netanyahu to preserve the two-state solution.

She says her faith is central to her politics: In an ad explaining her decision to impeach Trump, she holds the Hebrew Bible she used at her swearing-in. It’s the bible she got at her confirmation at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama.

Endorsements: Obama, DMFI PAC, JACPAC, JDCA, NORPAC, Pro-Israel America

Odds: The Cook Political Report includes the 2nd among its 90 or so competitive districts and rates it “lean Democratic,” better for Luria than a toss-up, but not as good as likely Democratic. She is again facing Scott Taylor, the retired Navy SEAL she defeated in a close race in 2018.

Washington

Kim Schrier, 52
8th District, which covers exurbs stretching east of Seattle and Tacoma

Big issue: Healthcare. The freshman congresswoman was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 16 and is now a pediatrician. She counts among her accomplishments bills that cut costs for generic drugs and for COVID-19 testing.

Schrier is also among a number of Jewish candidates targeted in recent years with ads depicting them as clutching wads of cash. In Schrier’s case, the offender was the Washington State Republican Party. “It’s an outrageous characterization of a candidate that draws on centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotypes,” her spokeswoman, Katie Rodihan, told The Washington Post.

Endorsements: Obama, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, DMFI PAC, J Street, JDCA

Odds: The Cook Political Report rates it likely Democratic.

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