A Democratic House candidate who was accused of anti-Semitism over her criticism of US-Israel relations lost the bid to flip a heavily Republican district in Virginia in Tuesday’s midterm election.
With 46.7 percent of the vote, veteran journalist Leslie Cockburn trailed Republican Denver Riggleman by more than 6 percentage points in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, according to the Associated Press.
Cockburn and Riggleman were competing to represent a heavily Republican district that includes Charlottesville, the scene of a white nationalist rally in 2016 that sparked deadly violence.
During the campaign, Cockburn defended herself against accusations of anti-Semitism stemming from a book she co-authored with her husband Andrew nearly 30 years ago, titled “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship.”
The Virginia Republican Party accused the former “60 Minutes” producer of being a “virulent anti-Semite,” and claimed the book promoted the idea that Israel controls America’s foreign policy.
Reviews of Cockburn’s book from major US newspapers in 1990s did not draw a link to anti-Semitism, though they did criticize the book for being often vaguely sourced, sensationalist and driven by a lazy anti-imperialist agenda.
However, Virginia Jewish Democrats rallied behind Cockburn, and told media outlets in May the GOP accusations of anti-Semitism were “false, made in bad faith, and should be dismissed.”
In July, Cockburn attracted attention again for saying her Republican opponent was unfit for office because he was a “devotee of Bigfoot erotica.”
Cockburn said the sketches of the mythical ape-like giant with his genitalia covered by a black rectangle posted on Riggleman’s Instagram account were “disturbing.”
My opponent Denver Riggleman, running mate of Corey Stewart, was caught on camera campaigning with a white supremacist. Now he has been exposed as a devotee of Bigfoot erotica. This is not what we need on Capitol Hill. pic.twitter.com/0eBvxFd6sG
— Leslie Cockburn (@LeslieCockburn) July 29, 2018
Riggleman, an Air Force veteran, dismissed the allegations as a “desperate” move by Cockburn, and said the Bigfoot references were a long running joke with his military friends.
He explained that one of Bigfoot images was a picture from a birthday card he had recently received from a friend, and the other was mock cover art for a satirical book he was writing called “The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him.”
Exit polls early Wednesday morning indicated that Democrats would take control of the House for the first time in eight years, upending the balance of power in Washington where US President Donald Trump enjoyed an easy ride following his shock 2016 election with Republican dominance of both chambers.
While Democrats took the lower house of Congress, Republicans bolstered their Senate majority in what Trump heralded as a “tremendous success.”