WASHINGTON (Nov. 3)
Of the three Republicans who swept to victory in Tuesday’s major elections, two are seen by the pro-Israel community as being supportive of Israel, while the views of the third are unclear.
And the three have varying views on abortion rights, another issue of concern to the Jewish community.
In this off-year election, Republicans were winners as votes in New Jersey and Virginia elected new governors Tuesday, and New York City voters chose a mayor.
In New Jersey, Republican Gov.-elect Christine Todd Whitman is viewed as friendly to Israel, as was Democratic incumbent James Florio, whom Whitman narrowly defeated.
In addition, Whitman, like Florio, favors abortion rights.
Most American Jews, with the exception of some in the Orthodox community, support a woman’s right to choose to end a pregn–ncy.
By contrast, Virginia voters elected a more conservative Republican governor, George Allen, who is not seen as a supporter of abortion rights.
Allen defeated the Democratic incumbent attorney general, Mary Sue Terry, by a large margin, 58 to 41 percent.
Allen’s position on Israel was not known.
Jewish Democrats were relieved this week that Virginia voters rejected the bid of Allen’s running mate, Mike Farris, who has come under fire for his ties to the “religious right.”
Farris, who has worked for the Moral Majority and other religious right groups, lost the race for lieutenant governor to Democratic incumbent Donald Beyer Jr.
Groups on the religious right back an agenda that includes support for school prayer and rejection of abortion rights and gay rights, positions opposed by the majority of the American Jewish community.
Jewish Republicans did not actively support Farris throughout the campaign, although they did support Allen.
FOREIGN POLICY TAKING A ‘BACK SEAT’
In the hard-fought New York City mayoral race, Republican Rudolph Giuliani won a narrow victory over Democratic incumbent David Dinkins.
Giuliani is viewed as a supporter of Israel, but his views on abortion rights are less clear.
The mayor-elect has disclaimed reports that he holds anti-abortion views, but he is not seen as being firmly in the pro-choice camp.
Tuesday’s dramatic Republican sweep has Jewish political activists pondering the election’s message for the more crucial 1994 campaign season.
Jewish Democrats and Republicans reacted predictably to Tuesday’s initial results.
While Republicans see their victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races and the New York City mayoral contest as a clear mandate against President Clinton’s policies, Democrats are playing down the election results.
One Jewish Democratic activist said that future battles over the North American Free Trade Agreement and health care reform are more crucial politically than Tuesday’s election results.
“How those come out will tell us a lot more about the political health of the Clinton administration than these elections,” said Hyman Bookbinder, the longtime former Washington representative for the American Jewish Committee.
Bookbinder now serves as chairman of the advisory council of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which promotes grass-roots Jewish Democratic political activity.
A Republican activist said Wednesday that the Republican victories, combined with other Republican wins earlier this year in such contests as the Los Angeles mayoral race, demonstrate that Jews, like other Americans, are concerned about taxes, crime and welfare reform.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition, said Republicans will benefit from this focus within the Jewish community on domestic issues.
With the peace process moving along, issues relating to Israel and foreign aid will be “taking a back seat” to “pressing domestic issues,” said Brooks, whose group promotes Jewish Republican political activity.