Political Points — Hannity told me not to come

Welcome to Political Points, where JTA gets you your politics fix by 10:30 a.m., from now until Election Day.

**There are two races in the Chicago area of intensive Jewish interest — so what made one candidate a no-show at a Jewish forum for candidates?

The races of interest are:

  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) v. Joel Pollak in Illinois’ 9th district, stemming north from Chicago’s North Shore, pits a veteran Jewish Democrat against a former intern for Alan Dershowitz.
  • The 10th district, north of the 9th, does not feature Jewish candidates, but is itself heavily Jewish. Its congressman, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), now in a bid to win the open U.S. Senate seat, was for 10 years an anomaly: A Republican serving a district that otherwise habitually voted Democrat. (His moderate politics and his out-front pro-Israelism helped him out.) Now the district looks like a rare pick-up in what looks otherwise to be a poor year for Democrats. Dan Seals, a businessman who tried twice to wrest the seat from Kirk, is the Democrat. He faces Bob Dold, also a businessman.

All four were to have appeared Sunday Monday night at a candidates’ forum at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Ill. The event was also sponsored by Temple Beth-El, Chicagoland Jewish High School and Solomon Schechter Day School.

Dold said he was going to appear, and then backed out at the last minute — as it turns out, because he was in New York the same evening, appearing on Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity show. (Such appearances are fund-raising gold, and Seals-Dold has been a tight race in money-raising terms.)

Interestingly, both sides got in digs for Dold’s no-show. In an email blast, Steve Sheffey, an activist in the Jewish community for Democrats, chided Dold for "blowing off" his commitment. Pollak also seemed a little ruffled*; a campaign email noted:

Mr. Seals was meant to share the stage with 10th district Republican candidate Robert Dold, who was unable to attend the forum due to a national television appearance. That left Joel Pollak as the sole Republican candidate for federal office at the forum.

Pollak’s broader point in his email was that he took on two Dems and won. Sheffey obviously didn’t agree, but credited Pollak for being "civil." (Pollak’s tone has been an issue in the race. The Chicago Tribune, which usually endorses Republicans — it backs Dold — favors Schakowsky in the election, in part, it said, because "boy, (Pollak) needs to dial down his disdain for people who disagree with him.")

The next candidate forum is on Oct. 17 at KINS, a modern Orthodox shul on Chicago’s North Shore.

*UPDATE: Pollak called to say that he was not at all ruffled by Dold’s absence — he was just happy to have faced two, not one Democrats, in a one-hand-behind-his back kind of way. He also says the tone issue is more of a problem for the other side, citing this use of an expletive by Schakowsky’s campaign manager, Alex Armour, in a tweet. He also notes this letter to the Tribune contesting the Trib’s claims about his tone.

**Neighboring Wisconsin has a Jewish population of barely 20,000 out of 5.6 million people. Yet, since 1993, its entire Senate delegation has been Jewish: Senior Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is well into his fourth term and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is finishing his third. That might now change: Feingold is trailing challenger Ron Johnson, a plastics manufacturer, by a stubborn 7 points — even though the consensus is that Feingold hammered Johnson in a debate Monday night.

Feingold, a wonk’s wonk, is a master of details, but that might not count for much in this season’s insurgency.

**I’ve referred to Pollak in copy as "a rare Tea Party-backed Jewish candidate." Now I’ve found another rarity in Michigan: a Tea Party-backed Arab American candidate. Justin Amash, of Palestinian and Syrian descent, is favored over Democrat Pat Miles to replace retiring congressman Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.). That would make him the first Palestinian American in Congress. Interesting factoid about their campaign bios: Pollak makes no bones about his Jewishness or his closeness to Israel. Amash only talks about being a Christian.

**Carl Paladino, the Republican trailing Andrew Cuomo in the race for New York governor, digs himself out a little, and apologizes for reading an anti-gay script handed to him by Rabbi Yehuda Levin. Per yesterday’s New York Daily News:

Yesterday I was handed a script. I redacted some contents  that were unacceptable. I did also say some things for which I should have chosen better words. I said other things that the press misinterpreted and misstated. I sincerely apologize for any comment that may have offended the Gay and Lesbian Community or their family members. Any reference to branding an entire community based on a small representation of them is wrong.

**Rich Iott, the Ohio Republican challenging Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) digs in deeper, and continues to insist that the SS folks he emulated on weekend outings were decent chaps.

From Talking Points Memo’s transcript of Iott’s appearance on CNN:

They were doing what they thought was right for their country. And they were going out and fighting what they thought was a bigger, you know, a bigger evil.

Stephen Colbert draws the obvious conclusion — it’s Eric Cantor‘s fault:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rich Iott Wears a Nazi Uniform
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

**American Jewish Committee Director David Harris says the big surprise for him, on the AJC survey we covered yesterday showing declining Jewish support for President Obama, was majority Jewish support for Arizona’s hardline immigration law.

**The Republican Jewish Coalition rolls out two new Jewish newspaper ads in its campaign blitz targeting U.S. Senate races in eight states. It calls on Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in Pennsylvania and Robin Carnahan in Missouri to return J Street Political Action Committee money in the wake of revelations that sister lobby J Street misled about receiving funds from billionaire financier George Soros.

In an interview, Matt Brooks, RJC’s director, said the ads’ twin concerns — Obama’s foreign policies and the ailing economy — dovetail. "As our economy does worse and worse, the deficit grows larger and larger, and it’s one closer day that Iran gets to building a nuclear weapons," he said. "There’s an intersection of foreign and domestic issues that are pervasive in the Jewish community right now."

His aims were twofold, Brooks said: rally the Jewish GOP vote in states where even slight shifts might make the difference, and recruit new membership to the RJC. In addition to Missouri and Pennsylvania, the ads target California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Washington and Nevada.

David Harris of the National Jewish Democratic Council (the other David Harris) says NJDC experience is that Jewish newspaper ads don’t justify the expense. (Brooks says his campaign costs well north of $1 million, but that also includes TV ads and get out-the-vote campaigning.) "Voter education is important — there are clearly races around the country voters are engaged in," Harris said. "But ad campaigns like these have been shown in the past to be expensive and ineffective." Instead, NJDC will focus on get out the vote and social media.

**Is Sarah Palin running in 2012? Maybe not. But not confronting Iran could lead to "Armageddon," she tells NewsMax in an exclusive interview, via Politico:

We have to realize that at the end of the day that a nuclear weapon in that country’s hands is not just Israel’s problem or America’s problem it is the world’s problem. It could lead to Armageddon. It would lead to that World War III that could decimate so much of this planet.

**At The Yeshiva World, columnist Daniel Miller wonders if Democratic State Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, who represents an area including Flatbush, faces a credible challenge from GOP challenger Yoseph Hayon because of where Cymbrowitz eats and whom he married:

What is surprising is how out of touch Steve has become from the district he represents in Albany. For years, non-observant Jewish politicians tried to appear observant out of fear of offending the observant Jewish community. The best example of this is the popular US Senator Chuck Schumer who ends every address to his observant Jewish constituents with the Hebrew salutation of “Am Yisrael Chai.” However, Steve has openly flouted this tradition. For example, for many years Steve would eat at treif (non-Kosher) restaurants in Brooklyn and would report on this experience by “reviewing” those treif restaurant in a local newspaper.

(snip)

Most recently, Steve has taken the most distinct step in permanently severing his ties from the community by re-marrying a non-Jewish woman. After all, Steve’s entire claim to this Assembly seat was the fact that he was continuing the legacy of his departed religiously observant wife. While inter-marriage is an accepted fact of life in much of the United States, in Frum Jewish Flatbush it is sacrilegious. In fact, if Steve were really Frum, like most of his Flatbush constituents, his family would likely sit shiva for him and he would be expelled from the community.

Meals? Partners? This being New York, we have only this advice for Cymbrowitz and Hayon: Your biggest hecsher problem might be who koshered the speech you just read.

Send in those tips, rkampeas@jta.org.

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