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Hopes of Electing Jewish Republicans Don’t Pan out in This Off-year’s Elections

November 6, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Decisive off-year gubernatorial wins in the South spurred some hopes for the Republican Party, but the hope of nurturing another representative constituency — Jewish Republican politicians — were undermined by decisive defeats of moderate Republican Jews across the country.

Republicans have been touting inroads into the Jewish vote, once thought of as solidly Democratic. They have cited increased contributions to the GOP from Jews, and polls last year showing an increase in Jews voting for Republicans in midterm congressional elections, credited in part to President Bush’s pro-Israel record.

But there has been little progress among Jewish Republicans running for public office.

While moderate Jewish Republicans have won some recent elections — among them Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — Tuesday’s election did not portend a banner year.

Bloomberg and Philadelphia mayoral hopeful Sam Katz were among the big losers in Tuesday’s election. The Republican Katz, who lost by a tiny margin to John Street in 1999, lost decisively to Street on Tuesday: 58 percent to 42 percent.

Street’s backers were outraged by revelations of FBI wiretaps inside the mayor’s office — a corruption investigation Street’s supporters said reeked of political timing.

Bloomberg, a media magnate, spent his own money to promote a referendum on non-partisan elections in New York. It was buried by 70 percent to 30 percent, in part a reflection of unhappiness with what many consider his bland, aloof leadership.

Four other Republican Jews cited in an article in the Forward last week as “Coleman Republicans” were defeated.

In New York City Council elections, Josh Yablon and Jay Golub lost. Barry Honig lost a New Jersey State Senate bid against incumbent Jewish Democrat Byron Baer. Baer’s victory was part of the Democratic reclaiming of the New Jersey Senate, a rare bright spot for the party. In Pittsburgh, Daniel Cohen lost decisively to incumbent city councilor Doug Shields.

Spokesmen for the Republican Jewish Coalition did not return calls.

The National Jewish Democratic Council’s executive director, Ira Forman, said that off-year elections by definition are too local to support or undermine any perceived trend, including signs of greater Jewish representation among Republicans. Still, he said, Jewish Republicans ought to take responsibility for the losses, having touted the candidates.

“They chose to make this a big deal,” Forman said. “If you highlight it, you’ve got to live with it when you fail.”

Jewish officials said that whatever the outcome, the heartening trend was greater Jewish involvement in the political process in both parties.

“It used to be that Jewish candidates were always Democrats, but Jews rising to top levels in both major political parties is a good thing,” said Nathan Diament, national director of the Orthodox Union’s institute of public affairs.

Forman wondered whether Jews were ready for the Republicans, noting the victory of former GOP national boss Haley Barbour in the Mississippi governor race. Barbour’s photo was posted on the site of an anti-Semitic group, the Council of Concerned Citizens, above an article entitled: “Did Rothschild Write the Protocols of Zion?”

Barbour refused to ask the group to take down the photo, in which he poses at a barbecue with a director of the group.

“How comfortable do you have to be with a group’s ideas to have your picture taken with someone like that?” Forman said. “It ought to cost the Republicans in other parts of the country if it doesn’t cost them in Mississippi.”

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