Jewish Hopes for Republican in Congress Rest With Lee Zeldin

Zeldin, a state senator from New York, has the best prospects of replacing House Majority leader Eric Cantor, who lost his re-election bid.

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Eric Cantor, shown in Washington in 2013, stunned observers by losing his seat to a Tea Party challenger. Credit: AFP

Republican Lee Zeldin, a New York state senator who is running for Congress this year, could be the Jewish replacement for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Washington Examiner reports.

Cantor, the most senior Jew in Congress and the only Jewish Republican, lost his re-election bid earlier this month in a surprise primary upset to a little-known college professor.

Zeldin, who won his Republican primary last week against a well-funded challenger, now seems to be the great hope of Jewish Republicans to maintain a voice in Congress, the Examiner wrote.

Cantor was the only Jewish Republican to serve in the House since the retirement of Benjamin Gilman, of New York, in 2003. Other than Cantor, who took office in 2011, there has not been a Jewish Republican in either chamber of Congress since Senators Norm Coleman and Arlen Specter left office in 2009.

The situation is very different in the Democratic Party, which currently has 22 Jewish members of the House and another 10 in the Senate.

“Now it’s taken on the added purpose of making sure there remains at least one [Jewish] voice in Congress amongst the Republican conference,” Zeldin told the Washington Examiner.

In his quest for election, Zeldin faces Representative Tim Bishop, one of the more vulnerable House Democrats. Bishop beat Zeldin by 17 percent when the two candidates faced off for the same seat in 2008.

Zeldin is not the only Jewish Republican running for a House seat this year, but he is considered the most likely to succeed. Also running are Adam Kwasman, an Arizona state representative, and Elan Carr, running to replace Henry Waxman in a staunchly Democratic California district.

“I think it is important to carry over the unfinished business that Eric Cantor has been working on throughout his entire congressional career,” Zeldin said. “I would very much welcome the opportunity to pick up where he leaves off.”

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