A Jewish senator from New Hampshire?


Politico has a piece today on a possible bid for the U.S. Senate next year by two-term Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes, who was his state’s first Jewish congressional representative. Hodes would be aiming to replace Sen. Judd Gregg, who announced yesterday that he wasn’t going to be President Obama’s secretary of commerce and wouldn’t be running for re-election:

As recently as four years ago, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) was better known as the co-founder of the children’s rock group Peggo-sus than for his political talents. He had just suffered a 20-point blowout loss in his first run for Congress in 2004, a result that suggested he was better suited to producing songs such as “Cheerios in My Kazoo” than to politics.

Today, however, no one questions his campaign skills. Just a few short years after suffering a landslide loss in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, Hodes has emerged as a solid contender in New Hampshire’s 2010 Senate race — regardless of his Republican opposition.

The article gives a number of reasons why he’s a front-runner:

Given that he already represents half the state in the House, Hodes starts with high name identification. And, with a prime perch on the Financial Services Committee, he is positioned to raise big bucks.

Still, there’s no guarantee Hodes will have a clear field in the Democratic primary. [Rep. Carol] Shea-Porter is considering entering the race, as is retired State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau.

But Democrats agree that he would be tough to beat, and a new Public Policy Polling survey shows Hodes with the highest net favorable rating of all the candidates surveyed. He narrowly led prospective Republican challengers John Sununu and Bass, while Shea-Porter trailed both Sununu and Bass in the poll.

In a state where the GOP has suffered significant erosion in recent years, Republicans have taken notice of Hodes’ early maneuvering. The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a Web ad Thursday attacking Hodes for supporting both higher taxes and the stimulus plan.

“Republicans are nervous, and they should be,” said Hodes. “You don’t have to be a fortuneteller to read the tea leaves of what’s been going on in New Hampshire.”

Last year, Hodes, who is related to a famous Jewish writer, talked to JTA’s Ben Harris about his Jewish background:

His paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Ukraine who arrived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the early part of the 20th century. On his mother’s side, Hodes is related to the novelist Bernard Malamud. The grocery store that figures prominently in much of “Cousin Bernie’s” work was modeled on the one operated by Hodes’ grandmother.

“My father and mother were secular Jews,” Hodes said, “and we were brought up celebrating Passover with my grandparents and then being in a secular household with my parents. So personally I have a strong identification as a Jew in terms of my heritage and my culture, and it didn’t necessarily come from my parents. I think it came in spite of my parents."

He also spoke about his first trip to Israel, in 2007:

Hodes says his support in Congress for Israel was never in doubt. “It’s in my DNA,” he said. But the trip solidified that support in ways he struggles to articulate.

“It’s very interesting in midlife to come to a place where something is as moving as my trip was in terms of seeing the home for the Jewish people and understanding how fragile life is there, and how important the relationship between America and Israel is,” Hodes said. “It was a stunner.”

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