Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: August 29, 2018

Sheldon-backed Ron DeSantis to face Soros-backed Andrew Gillum in Florida Governor race

Republican Florida governor candidate Ron DeSantis speaks at a Make America Great Again Rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, U.S., July 31, 2018.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

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PRIMARY RESULTS — FLORIDA: In the 6th Congressional District, Nancy Soderberg, a former Bill Clinton National Security aide and U.S. Representative at the United Nations, won the Democratic primary to replace Rep. Ron DeSantis. In J Street's endorsement of her candidacy, the group highlighted Soderberg's role in passing the UN Security Council resolution endorsing Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. 

In the 9th District, former Congressman Alan Grayson got trounced by incumbent Rep. Darren Soto, losing his comeback bid by 33 percentage points. In the 16th District, Democrat David Shapiro claimed victory over Jan Schneider to take on incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) in the fall. In the 18th District, Lauren Baer won the Democratic primary to compete against incumbent Rep. Brian Mast (R). In the 19th District, David Holden advanced to take on incumbent Rep. Francis Rooney (R). 

In the 22nd District, incumbent Rep. Ted Deutch (D) cruised to an easy reelection. In the 23rd District, Joe Kaufman will once again challenge incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) in a 3-way race with independent Tim Canova. In the 27th District, Maria Elvira Salazar and former Bill Clinton Cabinet member Donna Shalala will face off to claim the seat of retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R). The seat is rated 'Lean Democratic' by the Cook Political Report. Rep. Lois Frankel's seat, in the 21st District, was uncontested. 

FLORIDA GOVERNOR RACE: Rep. Ron DeSantis (FL06) and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won their respective parties' primaries to compete for the open seat vacated by outgoing Governor, and current senatorial candidate, Rick Scott (R). Gillum, backed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer, scored an upset win against the two leading candidates Gwen Graham and Philip Levine, and real estate investor Jeff Greene. DeSantis was backed by President Donald Trump and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson

Donors on Desantis' 'Finance Leadership Team' include: Roger Hertog, Phil Rosen, Rebekah Mercer, Bernie Marcus, George Lindemann, Simon Falic, Cherna Moskowitz, Marc Goldman, Carlyn and Lothar Mayer, Mark and Erica Gerson, Elissa and Edward Czuker, along with Elliott Broidy. 

— RJC Vice Chair Phil Rosen tells us: "Ron DeSantis is one of the great friends of Israel in politics and the world today. I've been with him to Israel three times. He led the effort to move the embassy to Jerusalem way before President Trump and the administration took it on. He even went to Jerusalem to scout out locations. On every issue he's been a great friend of Israel. He led the effort on Iran. He's also a great leader for the state of Florida and I think he'll be one of the greatest Governors."

— How Ron DeSantis won the Fox News primary — by Marc Caputo: “It has felt a lot like I’m running against the Seinfeld candidate,” [Adam] Putnam said. “The campaign’s being run out of studio. They have a smattering of celebrity guest appearances. And at the end of the day, it’s all about nothing. But unlike Seinfeld, it’s not funny.” [Politico

— Andrew Weinstein, a Florida-based attorney and prominent Democratic donor, emails us: "Last night was a great night to be a Florida Democrat. Turnout was through the roof, and in nominating Andrew Gillum, the party chose an exciting and dynamic candidate for governor who will help turn the state blue again. I am absolutely certain that the party will immediately come together to support his candidacy. The Republicans, on the other hand, selected a Trump wannabe with an A+ rating from the NRA and an undistinguished career in Congress. Pick any issue — immigration, gun safety, LGBT rights, healthcare — and DeSantis has a position contrary to that of most Floridians. Florida elections are always close, but in Gillum the Democrats have a candidate with a real shot at taking the governor's mansion for the first time in 20 years."

Outgoing Governor Rick Scott secured the GOP Senate nomination to challenge incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D).  

ARIZONA: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) will face off against Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ-2) for Senator Jeff Flake's seat after winning their respective primaries. 

MIDTERMS — GOP tries to tie torch-bearing Charlottesville protest to Democrat in Va. Congressional race — by Laura Vozzella: "The Republican Party of Virginia has distributed a flier that accuses a Democrat running for Congress of being anti-Semitic. The party bases that allegation on a 1991 book Leslie Cockburn co-wrote that is highly critical of U.S.-Isaeli covert operations. “Racists in Charlottesville chanted ‘Jews will not replace us.’ Leslie Cockburn’s book adds fuel to the fire,” reads the mailer, which mixes pictures of torch-bearing protesters with photos of Cockburn and her book, “Dangerous Liaison.” “Reject anti-Semitism. Reject Leslie Cockburn.” [WashPost

C.I.A. Officer-Turned-Candidate Says PAC Obtained Her Security Application — by Michael Tackett: "Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic candidate challenging Representative Dave Brat of Virginia [in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District], sent a cease-and-desist letter to Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has raised more than $100 million to help Republicans in the midterm elections... Ms. Spanberger said in [an] interview that she had become suspicious that the application had been leaked because Republican-aligned groups conducting “push polling” in the race had been asking respondents whether they knew she had once taught at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Va., an international baccalaureate program." [NYTimes

Cruz allies sound alarm about Texas Senate race — by Alex Isenstadt: "Republicans are sounding the alarm about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s closer-than-expected reelection contest... The White House... has been monitoring the contest. Two senior Republicans said they expected President Donald Trump, who fought bitterly with Cruz during in the 2016 presidential race, to hit the trail for the Texas Republican ahead of the November election." [Politico]

Pro-Israel group helps raise $500,000 for embattled Menendez: "A leading pro-Israel political action committee says it has helped raise over $500,000 for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J... who is in an unexpectedly tight race... The most recent NORPAC fundraiser for Menendez was on Monday, at $1,000 a plate." [JTA

2020 WATCH — Bloomberg to headline Pennsylvania Democratic fundraiser — by David Siders: "Michael Bloomberg will headline a Democratic Party fundraiser in Pennsylvania in October, as the billionaire mulls a run for president in 2020." [Politico]

TALK OF THE REGION — U.S. to End All Funding to U.N. Agency That Aids Palestinian Refugees — by Colum Lynch: "The Trump administration has decided to end funding altogether [to UNRWA], several sources told Foreign Policy... The decision was made at a meeting earlier this month between President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo... The administration has informed key regional governments in recent weeks of its plan." 
 
"The decision underscored the influence of Kushner and Nikki Haley... who have overcome resistance to the cuts from the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence community, and the State Department under the leadership of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson." [ForeignPolicy

HEARD YESTERDAY — U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' National Security Summit in Washington, DC: "If the region doesn't invest in those areas, why are we being faulted for not investing in those areas? They have to have skin in the game. They're the ones that fight me every day on Israel issues, but yet they don't give a penny more than they have to."

"Our job is not to take the beatings that you give us, saying we're not kind to Palestinians and then turn around pay for them. Our job is to make sure that, look, we'll be a partner with you, but only on a partner basis of something you believe in. So you show us you care, and then we'll come back and decide if we're going to give." [Video

— State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert at a press briefing: "I think we believe at this time that it is not providing value to the U.S. taxpayer." 

ON THE HILL: “UNRWA needs to be reformed,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who serves on the Senate foreign aid panel, told Al-Monitor. “Cutting off aid is also not the solution. There’s something in between that.” ... “We have to be a little careful,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Al-Monitor. “I’m not in any way criticizing what [the Trump administration is] doing, but we have to be a little bit careful in not emboldening Israel too much as it relates to Gaza.” ... Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who sits on both the Foreign Relations Committee and foreign aid spending panel, told Al-Monitor that the aid cuts “will lead to more desperation on the part of those people who live in Gaza and have the potential to produce further violence.” [Al-Monitor]

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH: During its weekly meeting held in Ramallah City yesterday, the Palestinian Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, condemned the Trump administration's "persistent attempts to blackmail" the Palestinian leadership to succumb to the "meaningless so-called 'Deal of the Century'" through drastic cuts in U.S. assistance. [MaanNews]

REPORT — Abbas backs demilitarized Palestinian state, says funds better spent on schools: "Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli academics that he preferred devoting funds to education and institutions than to an army, the Kan public broadcaster reported. “I support a state along the 1967 borders without an army. I want unarmed police forces with batons, not guns,” Abbas reportedly said in Ramallah." [ToI; Kan]  Abbas says he opposes solution to refugee issue that would ‘destroy Israel’ [ToI]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on a conference call with the American Jewish Congress: "There's no schedule [for the rollout of Trump's peace plan]. I would imagine that we will roll something out. I hesitate even to put a month on it because it has shifted as we continue to listen and talk to people. So it's not imminent. There are some rumors that we might present something at the UN [General Assembly]. It's not going to happen. We will release it. We're just trying to think of when we think is the right time, garnered to get the most positive response and maybe make the most progress."

Friedman also clarified Trump's comments last week that Israel will pay 'a higher price' for the Jerusalem embassy move: "The President feels that if the parties are lucky enough to be sitting in a room and making progress, he might say to the Israelis, 'Look, can you do a little bit more? Look what we did for you. Is there's something more that you could do?' It's not that he has something specific in mind, but just that under the circumstances that the United States has engaged in really significant good faith efforts to strengthen Israel and strengthen its historical multi-thousand-year connection to Jerusalem, maybe the Israelis could make it clear by leaning in a little bit as well. That's all it meant... I was there when the [Jerusalem] decision was made. I was there watching it and advocating for it in real time. There is not and there never was any demand made of Israel that they do anything in exchange for the Embassy move." 

During the conference call, Friedman boasted about Trump's high popularity in Israel: "President Trump has the highest popularity rating in Israel of any country in the world. You know, if his popularity rating were this high in the United States I don't think the Democrats would even field a candidate [in 2020]." 

IRAN SANCTIONS — Iran ‘put on notice’ for ‘continued mischief’ in Middle East, says US Defense Secretary — by Mythili Sampathkumar: "Defense Secretary James Mattis called Iran the “single biggest destabilising element” in the Middle East during a rare press conference at the Pentagon along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford... He warned they are “going to be held to account for it” but did not going into detail about what that entailed." [Independent; RealClearPolitics]

Nikki Haley Warns That Iran Could Become ‘the Next North Korea’ — by Uri Friedman: "U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that she “never thought the Iran deal could be fixed.” ... “You could change it to be a better deal, but you couldn’t change it to be a good deal,” she said during an appearance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies... Haley described Iran as part of the Trump administration’s broader challenge of confronting nuclear proliferation among U.S. adversaries. “Look at North Korea. Look at how we’re pulling teeth to get them to stop” their nuclear-weapons program, she noted. “We’re not gonna get Iran to stop [once it acquires nuclear weapons]." [TheAtlantic]

— Brian Hook, Special Envoy on Iran, at FDD: "I think we tolerated a lot of Iranian bad behavior to get the Iran nuclear deal, and we tolerated much worse behavior to keep the Iran deal going... If you look at the gains that Iran has made during the period from the adoption of the deal to the present, you can't deny them. You can't deny those gains. They're concrete, they're real and they're across the Middle East... Now that we're out of the deal, it has really given us a great deal of diplomatic freedom to pursue the initiatives, whether it's sanctions, deterrence, diplomacy that can address the entire range of Iran's violent and destructive behavior." [Transcript]

Richard Goldberg and Behnam Ben Taleblu write... "You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide From Iran Sanctions: Given the current strength of the U.S. dollar and the deterrent power of secondary sanctions, no legitimate actor will want to use a payment channel that cannot do business in dollars and subjects all participants to a total cutoff from the U.S. financial system..." [WSJ

A city where Israel, U.S. are condemned and Trump is mocked as leader of the free world — by Kim Hjelmgaard: "At the entrance to the school [in Qum, Iran], two murals of the flags of Israel and the United States had been painted on the ground so that they could be trampled on over and over again – an effortlessly repeatable insult to two nations that Iran’s religious leaders have long disliked." [USAToday]  Iran’s hard-line former president has reemerged on Twitter, and he’s tweeting about Serena and LeBron [WashPost]

ON THE GROUND — Iran says to maintain military presence in Syria despite U.S. pressure — by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin: "Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami visited Damascus on Saturday for talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and senior military officials. He signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting with his Syrian counterpart... “The continued presence of Iranian (military) advisers in Syria was part of this military cooperation agreement between Tehran and Damascus,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Tehran’s military attache to Damascus, Abolqassem Alinejad, as saying." [Reuters]  

SCENE IN DC: Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin yesterday in Washington, DC. "Fantastic to see Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon again," Mnuchin tweeted. "Israel is a great friend and ally to the USA!" [Pic

Israel, US to set up joint team to enforce Iran sanctions — by Michael Bachner: "Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his American counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, agreed Tuesday to set up a joint team to improve the enforcement of financial sanctions on Iran in the high-tech field, Kahlon’s office said." [ToI

— Kahlon also met with Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt to discuss "joint Israeli-Palestinian economic projects supported by the United States." [Pic]

IN THE SPOTLIGHT... Attorney for Michael Cohen keeps changing his story on Trump Tower meeting — by Jim Sciutto and Carl Bernstein: "Lanny Davis has offered many variations of his client's knowledge regarding the meeting in Trump Tower but says he is now less certain about Cohen's claims. "I should have done a much better job of speaking with more suspicion than certainty, and I regret my mistake," Davis told CNN." [CNN

Touring Michael Cohen’s New York — by Tyler Foggatt: "One imagines future tourists signing up for a tour of Michael Cohen’s New York, as they do for other city legends... The other day, a test run was attempted. First stop: the town of Lawrence, near J.F.K. Airport, where Cohen grew up, the son of a nurse and a surgeon who had emigrated from Poland after the Holocaust. His street, Rolling Hill Lane, is a lush cul-de-sac with two-story houses and the odd McMansion. Cohen’s home, which has been renovated since he lived there, has beige siding, white windows, and a bright-red door with a shiny gold handle. The side yard contains a jungle gym and a trampoline." [NewYorker

** Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner to serve three years in prison after appeal rejected [Reuters]  American Dream Meadowlands, being developed by the Ghermezian family's Triple Five, to generate $1.2B In income, 16K jobs [PatchRitz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach developer hit by another lawsuit over construction delays [RealDeal]  Sumner Redstone’s Attorneys Agree to Hearing on His Mental Fitness [VarietyIn a Push to Enter IoT Market, Gil Shwed's Checkpoint Develops a Mini-Firewall [Calcalist]  The rise of giant consumer startups that said no to investor money [Recode]

PROFILE — New Panthers owner Tepper putting his stamp on organization — by Steve Reed: "A smiling David Tepper jogged down a small makeshift runway at a crowded gymnasium, crouching as he went to slap hands with wildly cheering elementary school children clad in blue Carolina Panthers T-shirts while music blared. After finishing his short jog, the Panthers owner smiled back at the crowd and seemed to soak in the moment. The self-made multi-billionaire hedge fund owner is 60, but still remembers his days growing up in Pittsburgh in a lower-income household." [AP]

Voters Want Supreme Court Arguments Televised, But Justices Think Mystery Should Stay — by John Bonazzo: "Everyone loves Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but until this summer’s documentary RBG, the general public didn’t know much about her. It’s not her fault—despite Ginsburg’s viral popularity, the Supreme Court remains the most mysterious branch of government. There’s an easy fix to that, according to a new C-SPAN survey: televising oral arguments... The most worrisome trend is that 52 percent of respondents couldn’t identify a single Supreme Court justice. Ginsburg was the most popular judge, with 25 percent of those surveyed naming her." [Observer; CSPAN]

HOLLYWOOD — Amandla Stenberg Defends Her Upcoming Controversial Holocaust Film ‘Where Hands Touch’ — by Elizabeth Wagmeister: "The romantic period piece from filmmaker Amma Asante revolves around the romance between two German teenagers — Stenberg as a biracial young woman coming of age during the time of the Holocaust and George MacKay as a member of the Hitler Youth — and when Variety posted a first look image from the film back in early 2017, social media users criticized the drama for romanticizing Nazis. Asante quickly took to social media to defend her project and clarify her purpose, writing, “This film does not romanticize Nazis in any way.” [Variety]

SPORTS BLINK — Red Sox star defends Hitler post: ‘Stand by 2nd Amendment’ — by Hannah Withiam: "J.D. Martinez stood by his 2013 pro-gun Instagram post featuring Adolf Hitler while speaking to the media Tuesday... Martinez said he did not mean to offend anyone with the post, explaining his motivation at the time as honoring his family’s struggle with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro." [NYPost

ACROSS THE POND — Deborah Lipstadt writes: "Jeremy Corbyn’s Ironically Ahistorical Anti-Semitism: It’s not a new problem in British politics. Maybe Corbyn should be reminded of the retort offered by Benjamin Disraeli, the U.K.’s only prime minister of Jewish origin, when attacked in the House of Commons for being a Jew. “Yes, I am a Jew. And when the ancestors of the right honorable gentlemen were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” [TheAtlantic]

TRANSITION — Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, was appointed as director of Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership. She will also teach courses and advise students about public service and leadership development. Sherman will remain senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group. [HarvardGazette]

A Guide To The Jewish High Holy Days In D.C. — by Lauren Landau: "As September approaches, our Jewish friends are preparing for year 5779. Whether you’ve got apologies to issue before Yom Kippur, round challot to bake apples into, or just want to get a good deed in before the Jewish year wraps, we’ve got you covered. Here are events spanning from religious to more Jew-ish. L’shana tova, from all of us at DCist." [DCist]

DESSERT: Hummus doesn’t have to be a dip. These five DC restaurants turn it into a satisfying meal — by Tim Ebner: "On Tuesday, [Ronen] Tenne and his partner, Nick Wiseman, will open Little Sesame, a downtown eatery that aims to encapsulate the flavors of the hummus found in Israel, and is an expansion of their counter-service Dupont Circle shop that closed earlier this year. It's one of several spots around Washington — and across the United States — that are challenging how most Americans eat hummus. Rather than serving hummus as a dip with carrots or celery, these shops serve warm and freshly whipped bowls of the dish as the star of a meal." [WashPost

-- A Hotelier, Ian Schrager, Who Knows How to Make Chefs Feel at Home [NYT]

BIRTHDAYS: Former US Secretary of the Treasury (2013-2017), Jacob Joseph 'Jack' Lew turns 63... Former US Secretary of the Treasury (1995-1999), Robert Rubin turns 80... Lakewood, California resident, Joe Lissak turns 84... Long time movie and television actor, Elliott Gould (born Elliott Goldstein) turns 80... Philanthropist and real estate mogul, she is an attorney and co-founder of Ogden CAP Properties and co-founder of Dog Tag Bakery, Connie Milstein turns 72... Dean of Duke Law School since 2007, he was previously a US District Court judge based in Sacramento (1990-2007), David F. Levi turns 67... Los Angeles resident, Warren Stern turns 66... Senior Counsel at the Federal Communications Commission, Amy L. Nathan turns 63... CEO of the Consumer Technology Association and author of the New York Times best-seller "Ninja Innovation," Gary Shapiro turns 62...

Journalist, blogger and former editor for the Jerusalem Post, Lisa Frydman Barr turns 54... Election law guru and head of the DC office of Clark Hill PLC, Charlie Spies turns 46... Hip-hop fashion designer, entrepreneur and artist, he is the founder and chief creative officer of Ecko Unlimited, Marc Ecko (born in Lakewood, NJ as Marc Milecofsky) turns 46... Rosh Yeshiva and Head of School at Bnei Akiva Schools in Toronto, Rabbi Seth Grauer turns 40... Director of government relations in the philanthropy practice at DC-based Van Scoyoc Associates, she was previously a manager at Jewish Women International, Robin Rubin... Partner at DC-based HLP&R Advocacy (a government affairs and public policy firm), he was previously a chief of staff or legislative director for four members of Congress (2003-2016), Jerr Rosenbaum... Adam Shapiro...