Along with a record number of women, LGBT and minority candidates running for office, Jewish representation in Congress got a slight boost this election season. And while Democratic gains did not mount to a “blue wave,” a closer look at races involving Jewish candidates can provide insight into the national mood.
This election cycle, the main question for both Republicans and Democrats—Jewish or not—was how to align themselves vis a vis President Donald Trump. For Jewish candidates, that balance is even more delicate; on one hand, many see the president as a strong supporter of Israel. Others can’t ignore his penchant for controversy and claim he is partly to blame for rising anti-Semitism in the country.
This equation was clearly reflected in the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District, where Jewish incumbent Lee Zeldin, a Republican and avowed Trumpite, faced a tough challenge from real estate developer Perry Gershon. Zeldin eventually won the race by almost six percentage points. A different New York race delivered a surprise, with Democrat Max Rose defeating incumbent Republican Dan Donovan on Staten Island, in what voters there described as a “check on Trump.” Kathy Manning, a Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 13th District, outraised and outspent incumbent Republican Todd Budd in what was possibly the state’s most hotly contested seat, only to lose in decisive fashion on election day.
At the same time, there were some notable upsets and firsts on the Jewish side, too. Most notably, Jared Polis became the first Jewish—and openly gay—governor of Colorado, and former synagogue leader Jacky Rosen defied trends and predictions by beating incumbent Dean Heller in the race for Nevada’s Senate seat. And the pack of new names included a rather familiar one: In Michigan, Democrat Andy Levin won the race to replace his father, long-time congressional fixture Sander Levin, in the House of Representatives. Along with Levin, several freshmen Jewish candidates, like Elaine Luria in Virginia and Dean Phillips in Minnesota, defeated strong Republican candidates—incumbents included—to bolster Democratic gains in the House.
To dispel the confusion, Moment put together a list of all the new Jewish faces in Congress:
House of Representatives
Kim Schrier — Washington 8
Mike Levin — California 49
Max Rose — New York 11
Andy Levin — Michigan 9
Susan Wild — Pennsylvania 7
Elaine Luria — Virginia 2
Elissa Slotkin — Michigan 8
Jacky Rosen — Nevada