Jewish fund-raisers are looking for ways to prevent former Rep. Cynthia McKinney from returning to Congress.
Jewish leaders were caught off-guard Monday when Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.) announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s open Senate seat, and would not run for re-election in the House.
Just two days earlier, McKinney, a lightning rod in the Jewish community who has been called stridently anti-Israel, announced her intentions to seek the seat she lost in 2002.
Majette received strong financial support from the Jewish community when she defeated the incumbent McKinney in the Democratic primary with more than 70 percent of the vote, and she was considered a favorite for re-election in the House this year.
Her absence is expected to greatly aide McKinney’s chances, unless another Democratic primary challenger can be found.
Morris Amitay, a leading fund-raiser in the Jewish community, said it was too early to determine how much effort the Jewish community would put into defeating McKinney this year, though he suggested there would be enough time to rally around a candidate before the July primary.
“It depends if there is a viable candidate,” said Amitay, founder of the pro- Israel Washington PAC. “There is some time, but I haven’t heard anything.”
Cathy Woolard, the openly gay president of Atlanta’s city council, announced her entry into the Democratic race for Majette’s seat Tuesday. Several other local candidates told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that they were considering challenging McKinney in the primary as well.
During her 10 years in Congress, McKinney angered many in the Jewish community with her anti-Israel comments and votes against resolutions supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.
Notably, she asked a Saudi prince for the $10 million donation he had pledged for disaster relief after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani had rejected the money because the prince suggested U.S. support for Israel provoked the attacks.
McKinney also suggested that President Bush knew of the terrorist plans to attack the World Trade Center, but did not prevent them because he wanted to launch a war.
McKinney has enjoyed strong support from the Arab and Muslim communities, which view her as a strong proponent of a Palestinian state.
Several Jewish officials said they were surprised with Majette’s decision, and predicted she would have an uphill battle to win the Senate seat in a state that is trending Republican.
However, there is speculation that Majette was pressured into the run because no viable Democrat had emerged for the race, and several Republican congressmen were expected to fight for their party’s nomination.
Majette’s entry could force Republicans to shift resources to Georgia from other competitive races.
Amitay said he had been planning to support Majette’s re-election bid in the House, particularly if McKinney decided to run.
“I would have been happier if she had run again,” he said, “and I don’t think she’s going to be the next senator from Georgia.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.