WASHINGTON (JTA) — GOP gains have sent five Jewish Democrats to defeat and have the only Jewish Republican in Congress poised to become majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. A Jewish Democrat won the open U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut.
With the Republican takeover of the House, the majority leader is slated to be U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). In Florida, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat, is projected to lose to his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, and Rep. Ron Klein, also a Democrat, lost to challenger Allen West, an Iraq War veteran.
Democratic incumbents also fell in New Jersey and Wisconsin. In New Jersey, Rep. John Adler conceded to Jon Runyan, a former offensive lineman for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and in Wisconsin, Rep. Steve Kagen, a physician, failed to beat back a challenge by Reid Ribble, a construction company owner.
David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., a Democrat, becomes the third openly gay Jewish congressman in the House, joining Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who retained their seats.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) failed to win a fourth term, defeated by plastics billionaire Ron Johnson, a Republican.
But Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) fended off a stiff challenge from Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett Packard CEO. Another Jewish lawmaker who survived the conservative/Republican resurgence was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). And Richard Blumenthal, the Jewish attorney general in Connecticut, defeated Linda McMahon, the wrestling magnate, in the race for the state’s Senate seat, which was vacated by the retiring Democrat Chris Dodd.
Grayson, who won in 2008 against an incumbent weakened by a strong primary challenge, represents a district that encompasses Orlando and leans Republican. Since his election he has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics nationwide of the Republicans, accusing the GOP of wanting the uninsured to die. Outside Republican-affiliated groups poured money into negative campaign ads taking aim at Grayson.
Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) lost his bid to win his state’s open U.S. Senate seat; so did another Jewish Democrat, Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
Tuesday’s results may open up new leadership opportunities in both houses.
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) loses a hotly contested battle to conservative Tea Party-backed Republican Sharron Angle, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is likely to run for party leader in the Senate, where Democrats are expected to maintain their majority. Early projections predict a win for Reid, however.