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2 More Jews Elected to Congress, but Boschwitz Defeated in Senate

November 8, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Two new Jewish members of the House of Representatives were elected Tuesday, increasing the number of Jews in the lower house of Congress to a record high of 33.

In the Senate, the Jewish contingent remains at eight, but Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), the only Jew on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lost his seat to another Jew, Democrat Paul Wellstone.

Wellstone, a college professor, was manager of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign in Minnesota.

Boschwitz, in fact, was the only Senate incumbent running for re-election to lose a race Tuesday.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the only other Jewish senator up for re-election this year, beat back a challenge from his Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Schuette.

Another Jew seeking to win a Senate seat, Republican Jim Rappaport, failed to upset Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

While there will be 41 Jewish members of Congress next year, there will be only one Jewish governor. He is Bruce Sundlun of Rhode Island, a Democrat. Sundlun has been active in the Jewish community and is currently president of Temple Beth El, a Reform synagogue in Providence.

Another Jewish Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, appeared certain of losing her race for the California governorship to Republican Sen. Pete Wilson, though an estimated half-million to 1 million absentee ballots were still to be counted Wednesday.

The two current Jewish governors, Democrats Madeleine Kunin of Vermont and Neil Goldschmidt of Oregon, did not seek re-election this year.

The two new Jewish members of the House


Senate Willis Gradison (R-Ohio)

Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) Bill Green (R-N.Y.).

Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) Tom Lantos (D-Calif.)

Carl Levin (D-Mich.) William Lehman (D-Fla.)

Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) Sander Levin (D-Mich.)

Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) Mel Levine (D-Calif.)

Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)

Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) John Miller (R-Wash.)

Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.)* Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.)*

James Scheuer (D-N.Y.)

House Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) Steven Schiff (R-N.M.)

Anthony Beilenson (D-Calif.) Norman Sisisky (D-Va.)

Howard Berman (D-Calif.) Lawrence Smith (D-Fla.)

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.).

Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.)

Ben Erdreich (D-Ala.) Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.)

Barney Frank (D-Mass.) Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

Martin Frost (D-Texas) Sidney Yates (D-Ill.)

Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.) Richard Zimmer (R-N.J.)*

Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.)

Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) *first time in office are at opposite ends of the political spectrum: One is a socialist, the other a conservative.

Much attention is expected to fall on Bernie Sanders, who by defeating Republican Rep. Peter Smith for Vermont’s lone House seat became the first socialist to be elected to Congress since the 1920s.

Sanders, a former mayor of Burlington, ran as an independent but said he would seek to join the Democratic Caucus.


The other new Jewish congressman is from New Jersey, where state Sen. Richard Zimmer, a Republican, won the seat vacated by Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.) in his unsuccessful bid last year for governor. Zimmer will now bring the number of Jewish Republicans in the House up to six.

The Boschwitz defeat was a blow to supporters of Israel. He was not only one of the leading advocates of Israel in the Senate, but played a crucial role in behind-the-scenes arm-twisting of those wavering in support.

Wellstone is considered a dove on the Middle East, and some have predicted he could become a vocal Jewish critic of Israel. During the campaign, he said he would support foreign aid for Israel, but his writings have indicated sympathy for a Palestinian state.

Boschwitz was originally expected to have an easy time winning re-election to a third term, especially after two well-known Democrats, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey III, the late vice president’s son, decided not to enter the race.

As late as last weekend, polls showed him ahead. But he apparently was hurt by the long budget debate and the turmoil in the Republican Party when the GOP candidate for governor, Jon Grunseth, had to drop out of the race because of allegations of sexual improprieties.


Boschwitz, a moderate Republican, may also have angered conservatives by urging Grunseth, a conservative, to leave the race. As a result, they may have decided not to cast their votes with either Senate candidate.

Boschwitz also may have lost support by sending out a well-publicized letter to Jews charging that Wellstone “has no connection whatever with the Jewish community or communal life.”

Levin of Michigan, who was thought at the outset to be having trouble winning his third term, pulled ahead in the last few weeks.

This was true of other supporters of Israel who, earlier in the campaign, were thought to be in trouble but, in the final months of the campaign, managed to move ahead.

Among these were Sens. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Paul Simon (D-Ill.); Tom Harkin (D-Iowa); Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii); and Mitch Mc-Connell (R-Ky.).

On the other hand, Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), considered a critic of Israel, won re-election to his fifth term in a close race with Harry Lonsdale, a Democratic businessman and environmentalist.

Another leading supporter of Israel and possible 1992 presidential contender, Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), who was expected to run away with his re-election bid, was almost upset by the Republican challenger, Christine Todd Whitman, a virtual unknown who had been given little chance of winning.

But anger in New Jersey over Gov. Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion package of new taxes and fiscal changes unleashed a backlash that almost defeated Bradley. Zimmer, the state’s new Jewish Republican congressman, has credited his victory to the anger over the tax package, which he fought in the state Senate.


In the race that drew the greatest attention across the nation, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) defeated Democrat opponent Harvey Gantt, after resorting to racial themes in his final weeks.

Although Helms, who has had a mixed record on Israel, had some Jewish support, most Jews backed Gantt in his bid to become the first black senator elected in the South since Reconstruction.

The three open Senate seats were all won by Republicans, who replaced retiring Republicans. They are: Rep. Harold Brown, succeeding Sen. William Armstrong in Colorado; Rep. Larry Craig, succeeding Sen. James McClure in Idaho; and Rep. Robert Smith, succeeding Sen. Gordon Humphrey in New Hampshire.

All three outgoing senators were not considered pro-Israel, but of their replacements, only Brown in Colorado received any substantial support from pro-Israel political action committees.

The Senate now has six Jewish Democrats and two Republicans, a continuation of the erosion two years ago of what was an even four-to-four split. In the House, there are now 26 Jewish Democrats, six Republicans and one independent.

Although there were several Jewish contenders who lost bids for House seats, the one receiving perhaps the most interest was Scott Shore, a 34-year-old Orthodox Jew in Boca Raton, Fla., who challenged freshman Rep. Harry Johnston, a Democrat in the Palm Beach area of Florida.

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