Eugene Vindman, who featured in Trump’s first impeachment, wins Virginia primary

Ex-official with Jewish Ukrainian roots to represent Democrats in competitive race for US House seat; pro-Israel challenger slightly ahead in another state district’s GOP primary

File: Eugene Vindman, Democratic candidate for Virginia's 7th Congressional District, attends a news conference outside the US Congress in Washington, March 13, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images via JTA)
File: Eugene Vindman, Democratic candidate for Virginia's 7th Congressional District, attends a news conference outside the US Congress in Washington, March 13, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A former White House official whose Jewish Ukrainian origins played a prominent role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearings won a Democratic congressional primary in Virginia on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the state, two prominent Jewish Democrats failed to secure a win in a primary in the increasingly Democratic suburbs and exurbs of Washington, DC. And efforts by Donald Trump and Jewish Republicans, among others, to oust a hardline conservative incumbent in central Virginia resulted in a Republican primary race too close to call.

Eugene (Yevgeny) Vindman won the Democratic nomination in the state’s 7th District, which stretches south from Washington’s Virginia exurbs to the state’s center. Vindman came to prominence in 2020 when Trump forced him and his twin brother Alexander out of their jobs as National Security Council staffers.

Both men were officers, and on loan to the White House from the military. Trump had them in his sights after Alexander Vindman testified to Congress in 2019 about the contents of a phone call from Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump sought to leverage aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden, who was gearing up to face Trump in the 2020 election. The phone call led to Trump’s first impeachment; he was acquitted in the Senate.

The Vindman twins had arrived as children from Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Vindman’s role in the impeachment drama helped make his candidacy far and away the best funded.

Vindman hopes to replace Representative Abigail Spanberger, who is running for governor. The 7th district is a swing district, and Vindman now faces Derrick Anderson, a former United States Army Green Beret who enjoyed the backing of the Republican party establishment.

Eugene Vindman (L) stands alongside his brother Alex Vindman during a news conference with VoteVets outside of the US Capitol building on March 13, 2024, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP)

Meanwhile, in the race in central Virginia’s 5th Congressional district challenger John McGuire was a few hundred votes ahead of the incumbent, Representative Bob Good. Race watchers said a winner would likely not be announced before Friday.

McGuire’s strong showing was the result of an alliance of strange bedfellows: Trump, the former US president who would not forgive Good for initially backing Florida Governor DeSantis in the primaries; former US House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who blamed Good, the chairman of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, for ousting him from the speakership last year; and the Republican Jewish Coalition, shocked into action by the growing number of Republicans buying into Good’s resistance to supplemental aid for Israel.

National media cast that expensive race as a referendum on whether incumbent Republicans couldn’t survive without paying absolute fealty to Trump, who is running for president again this year.

Pro-Israel groups see Good’s argument on Israel aid — demanding offsets in exchange for the funding — as a slippery slope to eroding assistance for Israel and turning it into a political football. Notably, Good is the only incumbent targeted by RJC this year. McGuire, who, like Good embraces, Trump’s denial of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, is equally conservative, but is committed to funding Israel’s defense.

At left: Virginia Sen. John McGuire takes part at a campaign event in Charlottesville, Virginia, June 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat); At right: Rep. Bob Good talks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, January 12, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In the 10th District, encompassing areas of northern Virginia that have in recent years attracted Jews to its government contract work and its tech sector, there was a crowded race to replace Democratic incumbent Representative Jennifer Wexton, who is retiring due to an illness.

Among those vying to replace her were State Delegate Dan Helmer and Eileen Filler-Corn, who made history as the first woman and the first Jew to serve as speaker of the state’s House of Delegates. Both were defeated by State Senator Suhas Subramanyam, who had the backing of Wexton.

Filler-Corn, who came in fourth, ended her term as leader of the Democratic caucus in 2022 on bad terms with other delegates, which cut into what she had hoped would be an easy run. Helmer, who came in second, was plagued in the final days of the campaign with an allegation — which he denied — that he had sexually harassed a campaign volunteer when he ran for the same seat in 2018.

When Wexton won the district in 2018 it was seen as a swing district, but it is now ranked as safe for Democrats.

File: Eileen Filler-Corn, then-minority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, speaks during a news conference in Richmond, Virginia, August 15, 2019. (Steve Ruark/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

Pro-Israel money poured into the race for the 10th district, in part because of Filler-Corn’s longstanding bona fides with the pro-Israel community, but also because other candidates called for restrictions on defense funding for Israel.

Subramanyam, who won the race, has forcefully defended Israel in its war against Hamas. In an online forum last month convened by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, he said Hamas should not survive the war it began on October 7, when it led a cross-border assault on southern Israel in which some 1,200 people were killed and 251 taken hostage.

“I want to see an end to this war, and I’d like to see a situation that involves the enduring defeat of Hamas,” said Subramanyam, who has visited Israel. He said he supported “a two-state solution long term, but Hamas can’t be one of the states.”

Such declarations meant his win drew a sigh of relief from some of Filler-Corn’s backers despite her defeat.

“By nominating a proud pro-Israel candidate, Democrats in Virginia’s 10th District have proven once again that being pro-Israel is not just wise policy, but also winning politics,” said a statement from the Democratic Majority for Israel, whose political action committee had backed Filler-Corn.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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