WASHINGTON (JTA) — The political action committee affiliated with J Street added Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to its list of endorsed senators, with the result that over half of the Senate’s Democratic caucus now has the endorsement of the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group.
In its decade of existence, J Street has moved from garnering a handful of endorsees to affiliation with more than half of the caucus in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, where it endorses 102 out of 192 incumbents.
The 25 J Street endorsements — out of 49 in the Democratic caucus — is a sign of how aligned the group sees its policies with those of the Democratic Party. J Street, which supports the two-state solution, is often harshly critical of the policies of the current Israeli government, leading many Jewish groups to its right to charge that it is not sufficiently pro-Israel.
J Street, which at its launch in 2008 was at least nominally bipartisan, now makes no bones about opposing GOP policies.
“By defeating President Trump’s congressional enablers and empowering a new wave of leaders, we can push back on policies that are exacerbating conflict and chaos in the Middle East,” Aaron Davis, the group’s political director, said in a statement Friday. “These candidates represent the goals and values of American Jews and pro-Israel voters in their districts and across the country.”
Warren and Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major-party presidential nominating contests, are leaders of the party’s progressive wing. However, a number of J Street endorsees — including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada — are centrist or even conservative. Rosen, who is Jewish, is challenging incumbent Republican Dean Heller for his Senate seat in November. (J Street PAC has multiple tiers of endorsements; Rosen is in its “On The Street” category, which means that the PAC will funnel to Rosen funds that donors earmark for her, but does not directly raise money for her.)
Also this week, J Street announced endorsements for a number of challengers in House races, including Ammar Campa-Najjar in California’s 50th. Campa-Najjar is a Palestinian-American businessman who has reached out to the local Jewish community.
Separately, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, a new umbrella for Jewish Democrats, announced its first round of endorsements. They include incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Rosen in Nevada for the Senate; and two Democratic challengers running in GOP-held House districts the party hopes to flip: Sean Casten in Illinois and Dean Phillips in Minnesota.