The 1990 Elections: Jewish Incumbents in the House Almost Certain of Re-election

With most members of the House of Representatives seeking re-election this fall almost certain of winning, the House is expected to continue to be the core of support for Israel in the U.S. government.

The 31 Jewish incumbents in the House, 26 Democrats and five Republicans, are all expected to return to Washington.

The only long-term Jewish incumbent who faces a close race is Rep. Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.), who represents a marginal district. He has had to squeak out a victory every two years since he was first elected in 1976.

Rep. John Miller (R-Wash.), seeking his fourth term, is also in a marginal district. But the latest reports from his Seattle district say that he is expected to win.

There is also a question mark about how Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will fare in his district. Frank, a leading liberal in the House who was formally censured for activities involving a male prostitute, had earlier been expected to win a sixth term easily.

But another Massachusetts Democrat, Rep. Gerry Studds, the House’s only other openly gay representative, has had little problem winning reelection since he admitted having relations with a male page.

For freshmen representatives, the first reelection bid is the crucial race. If they win it, they can usually be assured a long House career.

One Jewish freshman who seemed to be in trouble earlier in the year was Steven Schiff (R-N.M). But like Miller in Seattle, Schiff is now considered the front-runner.

The same is true of the two other Jewish freshmen, Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, both New York Democrats.

There are also Jewish challengers running to unseat incumbent members of the House this fall.

STATE RACES ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT

Benjamin Waldman, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition, an arm of the Republican Party, believes these mostly young, Republican candidates can help change what has been traditionally a Democratic-dominated Jewish delegation in the House.

A member of this generation who has been appealing for national support from Jews is Scott Shore, a 34-year-old Orthodox Jewish Republican who is trying to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Harry Johnston in the Palm Beach area of Florida.

Johnston is considered a supporter of Israel and is expected to be re-elected.

But while watching the November elections for the House, Democratic and Republican activists alike are stressing that the elections for governor and state legislature may be even more important this year.

The reason is that following the 1990 Census, state legislatures will be required next year to reapportion the 435 House seats because of population changes.

Pro-Israel activists are urging the Jewish community to pay close attention to the reapportionment, since the Northeast and Midwest are expected to lose about 18 seats to the Sunbelt, mainly Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

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