More Jews Than Ever to Serve in Congress Elected Tuesday
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More Jews Than Ever to Serve in Congress Elected Tuesday

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With the election of three Jewish newcomers and 28 incumbents Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives will have an all-time high of 31 Jewish members when the 101st Congress is sworn in Jan. 3. The previous high was 30 in the 99th Congress.

Two of the three Jewish incumbents seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate and two newcomers were elected, bringing the total number of Jews in that chamber back to eight. There were eight Jewish senators when the current Senate took office in 1987, but Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb.) died early in the session.

In the Senate races, incumbents Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) were re-elected, while Sen. Chic Hecht (R-Nev.) was defeated. The two new Jewish senators, both Democrats, are Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin and Connecticut Attorney General Joseph Lieberman, believed to be the first Orthodox Jew elected to the chamber.

The only other Jew running for the Senate was Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Richard Licht, a Democrat. He was defeated by Sen. John Chafee, who was re-elected to his third term. Licht was heavily supported by pro-Israel political action committees because Chafee, while voting for aid to Israel, had backed arms sales to Arab countries.

In the House, where incumbency is almost a guarantee of re-election, Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, upset Rep. Joseph DioGuardi, a Republican. There will now be two Jewish women in the House, Lowey and Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).


Both of the other two Jews elected to the House for the first time ran for open seats. They are Steven Schiff (R-N.M.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Engel ran for the seat vacated by Rep. Mario Biaggi, who resigned after being convicted of bribery and extortion.

In addition, Madeleine Kunin, a Democrat, was re-elected to her third term as governor of Vermont. The only other Jewish governor is Neil Goldschmidt of Oregon, who was secretary of transportation in the Carter administration.

In the Senate races, the biggest upset was the victory of Lieberman over three-term Sen. Lowell Weicker Jr. by a slim 6,000-vote majority. Weicker has not yet conceded defeat, pending the result of a recount.

The contest was bitter, with Democrat Lieberman running to the right of Weicker, who had the support of the state’s AFL-CIO. Weicker, a maverick Republican, was opposed by Conservatives led by William Buckley Jr., editor of the National Review.

Lieberman supported the death penalty and a moment of silence in public schools. Weicker, along with Metzenbaum, had led the opposition in the Senate to any weakening of the separation of church and state and other First Amendment constitutional guarantees.

Metzenbaum and Lautenberg also won inbitterly fought contests against Republican opponents who had originally been considerd capable of defeating them.

Metzenbaum won his third term by defeating Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich. Lautenberg was re-elected to his second term by defeating Pete Dawkins, the former West Point football star and army general.


In Wisconsin, Kohl was elected to the seat vacated by Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat, who is retiring after 31 years in the Senate. Kohl spent millions of his own money in first winning the Democratic primary and then defeating his Republican opponent, state Sen. Susan Engeleiter.

In Nevada, Hecht, who was seeking his second term, was defeated by the state’s Democratic governor, Richard Bryan. Although Hecht was the underdog, he had closed the gap in the final days. The election was not decided until early Wednesday morning.

Though Jewish, Hecht had lost support in the Jewish community because of his support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

In the House races, two Jews ran for atlarge seats in states with only one representative each. In Alaska, Peter Gruenstein, a Democrat, was unable to defeat Rep. Don Young, the Republican incumbent.

In Vermont, Bernard Sanders, the four-term socialist mayor of Burlington, running as an independent, finished a strong second in the race for that state’s single House seat. The election was won by the Republican, Peter Smith.

Two years ago, Sanders ran as an independent for governor and gathered enough votes to deny Kunin the clear majority she needed to be re-elected, forcing the decision to go to the state legislature.

The party lineup among Jewish members of Congress will now be five Democrats and three Republicans in the Senate and 26 Democrats and five Republicans in the House.


The Jewish members of the next Senate are Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The Jewish members of the next House of Representatives are Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Anthony Beilenson (D-Calif.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ben Erdreich (D-Ala.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Martin Frost (D-Texas), Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.), Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), Willis Gradison (R-Ohio), Bill Green (R-N.Y.).

Also Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), William Lehman (D-Fla.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Mel Levine (D-Calif.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), John Miller (R-Wash.), James Scheuer (D-N.Y.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Steven Schiff (R-N.M.), Norman Sisisky (D-Va.), Lawrence Smith (D-Fla.), Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sidney Yates (D-Ill.).

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