WASHINGTON – At the end of the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic Party is celebrating a big win in the House of Representatives, while the Republican Party enjoyed a successful night in the Senate. Both parties also had important wins in gubernatorial races across the country.
A number of the night’s biggest winners were Jewish candidates who ran for office in both chambers and at the local level. Here are some of the Jewish politicians who played an important part in the political theater of November 6:
On a night that, overall, was a bad one for Senate Democrats, Jacky Rosen helped deliver a bit of good news for her party. Her victory in the Nevada Senate race was their first – and perhaps only – “pick up” from Republicans in the Senate, and solidified Nevada's standing as a swing state that is leaning blue. Rosen, a former synagogue president, beat Republican incumbent Dean Heller by focusing on health care. Two years after entering Congress for the first time, she will now represent Nevada in the upper chamber for the next six years.
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The Democrats won in a number of districts that pollsters predicted would stay under Republican control, and the first of those to “flip” on Election Night was New York’s 11th Congressional District, located in Staten Island. This was the last Republican stronghold in New York City, and Max Rose – a military veteran who had served in Afghanistan – won it by a margin of 6 percentage points. This was an impressive result considering that his district backed Donald Trump by 9 percentage points in 2016.
Early on Tuesday evening, things were looking bleak for the Democrats. They had flipped two congressional seats early on, but lost a number of toss-ups, and were seeing bad results in the Florida gubernatorial and Senate races. Then a piece of good news emerged from Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Virginia Beach – home to many voters with a military background.
Elaine Luria, a retired Navy commander, narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Scott Taylor, dramatically improving the outlook for the Democrats’ chances of flipping the House. Luria said later she was “honored to once again answer the call to serve our country.”
Another Jewish military veteran enjoyed a good night on Tuesday, this time from the Republican side of the aisle. Lee Zeldin, who served in Iraq, was first elected to Congress in 2014. On Tuesday, he survived the “blue wave” with a 6 percent victory over Democratic challenger Perry Gershon (who is also Jewish) in Long Island. Zeldin is a strong supporter of Trump’s foreign policy, especially with regards to Israel and the Middle East, and was a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran. He is one of only two Jewish Republicans currently serving in Congress. The other, Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee, also won reelection, but unlike Zeldin’s race his was never seen as competitive.
Early on Wednesday morning, Republican Congressman Mike Bishop called Elissa Slotkin, a former national security analyst under the Bush and Obama administrations, to concede. Slotkin won by a very narrow margin in Michigan’s 8th District, but her toppling of Bishop – a leading figure in Michigan Republican politics – would have been considered a stunning event a year ago. Slotkin focused her campaign on her bipartisan national security credentials (including an endorsement by Stephen Hadley, the former national security adviser to George W. Bush) and on health care. Another Jewish female candidate in Michigan, Republican Lena Epstein, lost her bid in the state’s 11th District.
History was made in Colorado when Jared Polis, currently a member of Congress, won the state’s gubernatorial race. He became the nation's first openly gay governor, and the state's first Jewish one. Polis is also going to be one of the most progressive governors in the country, his victory another signal that Colorado – once viewed as a pivotal swing state in U.S. presidential elections – is leaning more and more toward the "blue" column. That could also explain good results for the Democrats in other key Colorado races on Tuesday.
Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff
The fact that two veteran Jewish lawmakers like Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff won reelection in their solidly Democratic districts shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. However, as a result of the Democratic majority in the House, both will now play key roles in Washington.
Nadler is expected to lead the Judiciary Committee, while Schiff will be in charge of the Intelligence Committee. Both have already promised a tough line when it comes to corruption in Trump’s circles, foreign interference in U.S. politics and the ongoing Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Their rise to power is going to turn into a major headache for the Trump administration.
Also worth noting is Rep. Eliot Engel from New York, who is positioned to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel is known as a strong supporter of Israel, who enjoyed an unusual bipartisan partnership with the committee's outgoing chairman, Republican Ed Royce, who retired last year.
The Chicago-based venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker reportedly invested more than $160 million in his gubernatorial campaign in Illinois, and that was enough to give him a decisive victory against incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner (who also invested tens of millions of dollars, if not more, in his election campaign). Pritzker’s victory is one of seven gubernatorial “flips” by Democratic candidates across the country. It will consolidate Democratic control of this already blue-leaning state.
Sheldon Adelson and Mike Bloomberg
Both of these mega-billionaires invested dozens of millions of dollars, if not more, in the midterm elections. Adelson’s aim was to preserve Republican control of Washington and increase his own standing in Trump’s political orbit; Bloomberg’s goal was to give the Democrats power on Capitol Hill, and reportedly also lay the groundwork for his own possible presidential campaign in 2020. With a split Congress in Washington, there’s an argument to be made that both of them succeeded.