Jewish Republicans, Democrats debate results of ’09 vote

Bob McDonnell speaks at a campaign rally in Fairfax County a few days before he was elected governor of Virginia by an 18-point margin. (PoliticalActivityLaw.com)

Bob McDonnell speaks at a campaign rally in Fairfax County a few days before he was elected governor of Virginia by an 18-point margin. (PoliticalActivityLaw.com)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — After playing an active role in both the New Jersey and Virginian gubernatorial races, Republican and Democratic Jews joined their respective partisans in debating the meaning of last week’s election results.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, hailing Bob McDonnell’s thrashing of Democrat Creigh Deeds in Virginia and Chris Christie’s victory over incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in New Jersey, said the GOP gubernatorial successes indicated that independent voters are suffering from “buyers’ remorse” regarding President Obama.

Meanwhile, the National Jewish Democratic Council was cheering Democrat Bill Owens’ victory over Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in upstate New York for an open U.S. House of Representatives seat. The Jewish Democratic group painted the race as a sharp rebuke of the most conservative wing of the Republicans in a district that had not elected a Democrat to Congress in more than a century.

Both the RJC and NJDC were heavily involved in courting Jewish voters in the gubernatorial races.

In New Jersey, both groups sponsored phone banks, ran ads in Jewish newspapers, and canvassed and handed out literature in Jewish neighborhoods. The NJDC emphasized a variety of issues, including stem-cell research and the Democratic candidates’ support for economic partnerships with Israel, while the RJC theme was “The Greatest Jewish Value is Family” and focused on jobs and crime.

The NJDC organized a similar field operation in Virginia, while the RJC held fund-raisers and was involved in efforts to get out the vote.

The Nov. 3 elections also saw the defeat of two Jewish women running as the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor.

Jody Wagner, a former president of Jewish Family Services of Tidewater, lost her bid to become the first Jewish statewide elected official in Virginia, although her 44 percent of the vote was higher than either Deeds or Democratic attorney general candidate Steve Shannon.

In New Jersey, Loretta Weinberg — a champion of Jewish Women’s Involvement in the Political Process, a project of the MetroWest Jewish federation in New Jersey — was Corzine’s running mate.

New York’s Jewish mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was re-elected for his third term — after changing the term limits law — by a surprisingly narrow 51-46 percent margin over Democrat Bill Thompson. But according to the exit polls, Jewish voters — who comprised 18 percent of the electorate — went for Bloomberg by a 3-1 margin.

The Orthodox Union issued an analysis of the returns from various states and municipalities indicating that areas in New York and New Jersey with a high concentration of Orthodox voters backed GOP candidates in several races.

The haredi Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America hailed Maine voters for repealing a state law allowing same-sex marriage.

"It is noteworthy that voters in every state in the union that has put this issue before the electorate have opted to preserve traditional marriage," said Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president.

"What this shows is that the concept of marriage is indeed well understood by the public. It means what it has always meant: the consecrated union of man and woman. Legislatures that try to change this classical definition are not only out of line but out of touch."

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