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33 Jews Elected to Congress: 29 to the House and 4 to the Senate

November 4, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Thirty three Jews were elected to Congress yesterday, four to the Senate and 29 to the House. Including the four Jewish Senators whose terms were not up this year, the 98th Congress which takes office in January will have 37 Jews compared to 33 in the current Congress.

The Senate victories included two incumbents who won their second terms, Sens. Howard Metzenbaum (D. Ohio) and Edward Zorinsky (D. Neb.), and two newcomers, Frank Lautenberg (D. N. J.) and Chic Hecht (R. Nev.).

The House victors included 22 incumbents and seven newcomers. The seat of one incumbent, Rep. Elliott Levitas (D. Ga.) will not be decided until November 30 because of redistricting difficulties. Rep. Bob Shamansky (D. Ohio) was the only incumbent to be defeated. Another incumbent, Rep. Marc Marks (D. Pa.) did not seek reelection after three terms.

The election, with Jews winning Senate seats for the first time in New Jersey and Nevada and House seats in Alabama and Virginia, demonstrated that Jews can be elected on issues that have no immediate effect on the Jewish community, without their religion being a factor in the contest.

Almost all the elections were based on the economic issue of support or rejection of the Reagan Administration’s economic policy. This showed up in the victories of Lautenberg, a liberal, and Hecht, a conservative who had President Reagan campaigning for him last week. It also showed up in the elections of Ben Erdreich in Alabama, the grandson of one of Birmingham’s first Jewish settlers and of Norman Sisisky in Virginia, both of whom won upset elections against Republican Congressmen.


Lautenberg, running in his first election, come from way behind to defeat Rep. Milicent Fenwick (R. N.J.). The 57-year-old owner of Automatic Data Processing Company spent millions, both to win his surprise nomination in the Democratic primary and to defeat Mrs. Fenwick. He said he had no apologies for this because he said his funds counter-balanced Fenwick’s high recognition factor. Lautenberg is honorary national chairman of United Jewish Appeal and is probably the first national Jewish leader to be elected to the Senate,

The 54-year-old Hecht also has close ties to the Jewish community.The operator of clothing stores in Las Vegas, he has served in the Nevada State Senate from 1966-1974 and is considered close to his new Republican colleague from Nevada, Sen. Paul Laxalt. He does not like to use his given name of Jacob.

The two newcomers along with Metzenbaum and Zorinsky join four other Jews in the Senate, now evenly divided between four Republicans and four Democrats. The others are Sens. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) and Carl Levin (D. Mich.) whose terms expire in 1984, and Arlen Specter (R. Pa.) and Warren Rudman (R. N.H.). Incidentally, Levin’s brother Sander Levin won election to the House yesterday as a Democrat in the Detroit area.

Four other Jews, all Democrats, ran for the Senate yesterday, two of them losing in very close elections. Missouri State Senator Harriet Woods came from behind but was unable to defeat her Republican opponent Sen. John Danforth to become the first Jewish woman to serve in the Senate. In Rhode Island, former state Attorney General Julius Michaelson was also defeated in a close race with Republican Sen. John Chafee.

Two other candidates were defeated as expected. Dr. Cyril Wecht was defeated by Sen. John Heinz in Pennsylvania, and David Levinson lost to Sen. William Roth in Delaware.

All seven newcomers elected yesterday to the House are Democrats. However the five Republican Jewish incumbents in the House were re-elected.


There are now two Jewish women in the House with the election of Democrat Barbara Boxer, a San Francisco county commissioner. The other woman is also a Californian, Rep, Bobbi Fiedler, a Republican from the Los Angeles area who won her second term. Two other Jewish women, both Democrats were defeated. They are Lyn Cutler, vice chair of the national Democratic Party in Iowa, and Beth Bland, a mayor in the state of Washington.

In addition to Erdreich, Sisisky, Levin, and Boxer, the other Jewish newcomers are Howard Berman and Mel Levine, both Democrats from California, and Larry Smith, a Democrat from Flordia.


The Jewish incumbents re-elected are: Anthony Beilenson (D. Calif.); Bobbi Fiedler (R. Calif.); Barney Frank (D. Mass.); Martin Frost (D. Tex.); Sam Gejdenson (D. Conn.); Dan Glickman (D. Kan.); Bill Green (R. N.Y.); Benjamin Gilman (R. N.Y.); Willis Gradison (R. Ohio); Ken Kramer (R. Col.); Tom Lantos (D. Calif.); William Lehman (D. Fla.); Richard Ottinger (D. N.Y.); Benjamin Rosenthal (D.N.Y.); James Scheuer (D. N.Y.); Charles Schumer (D. N.Y.); Stephen Solarz (D. N.Y.); Henry Waxman (D. Calif.); Theodore Weiss (D.N. Y.); Howard Wolter (D. Mich.); Ron Wyden (D. Ore.); and Sidney Yates (D. III.)


Meanwhile, most supporters of Israel in the Senate were re-elected. Among them were such stalwarts as Sens. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.), Daniel Moynihan (D. N. Y.), Paul Sarbanes (D. Md.), Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) and Heinz and Danforth.

In the House, Rep. Clarence Long (D. Md.), chairman of the House Foreign Appropriations subcommittee and a leading supporter of Israel was reelected. His district has been redrawn, leaving out most of the Jewish residents he had long represented. The election of Gilman, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, meant the defeat of another supporter of Israel, Rep. Peter Peyser.

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Findley (R. III.), considered the leading supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the House, appears to have been defeated by Democrat-Richard Durbin. Findley is demanding a recount.

Another winner in a close race in yesterday’s elections was Rep. Dante Fascell (D.Fla.) a close supporter of Israel on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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