By Jackson Richman
(JNS) Below are the 8 Senate races to watch for the Jewish and pro-Israel community. Note: Jewish population figures are from 2012, and according to the North American Jewish Data Bank by the Jewish Federations of North America.
Jewish Population: 106,300 (1.6 percent of state population)
Summary: In a race to replace the retiring Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, Republican Rep. Martha McSally leads Democratic Rep. Krysten Sinema by 0.3 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average.
McSally applauded the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. She also supported the president’s decision to nix American participation in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Sinema, an Iron Dome missile-defense supporter, was one of 25 Democrats to oppose the Iran deal. But she also opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from it. Sinema has also railed against what she called the “Israeli occupation” as a member of numerous anti-Israel groups like the Arizona Alliance for Peace and Justice, which decried Israel’s “disproportionate” use of “violence and oppression.”
Funding: Sinema has received $5,400 from Jewish philanthropist, political activist and Democratic Party mega-donor George Soros and $19,250 from NORPAC. McSally has yet to collect directly from Jewish philanthropist and Republican Party mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, but she has reportedly received funds from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund, of which Adelson has contributed $25 million.
Jewish Population: 638,985 (3.4 percent of state population)
Summary: Incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is facing a tight general re-election battle against Gov. Rick Scott, who is trailing his opponent by just 2.4 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average.
As governor, Scott signed an anti-BDS bill into law in 2016. Nelson supported the Iran deal and slammed Trump for U.S. withdrawal—a decision that Scott supported. However, Nelson was one of five Democrats to vote for Iran hawk Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as Secretary of State. He also co-sponsored the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which Trump signed into law last week.
Funding: Scott has received at least $2,700 from Adelson, in addition to $5,000 from the RJC. Nelson has received at least $5,400 from Soros and $19,564 from NORPAC.
Jewish Population: 17,470 (0.3 percent of state population)
Summary: Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly leads Republican businessman Mike Braun by only four points in the RealClear Politics average.
Along with Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Donnelly inserted a provision into a defense bill last year that required increased U.S. oversight of the Arrow 3 antimissile system to Israel. The provision was removed. Moreover, Donnelly supported the Iran deal and opposed withdrawal from it. Braun has criticized Donnelly’s stance.
Funding: Donnelly has received at least $2,500 from Soros.
Jewish Population: 59,175 (1 percent of state population)
Summary: Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley is up by just 0.5 percentage points over incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in the RealClear Politics average.
McCaskill supported the Iran deal and opposed U.S. withdrawal from it. She also withheld her support for the Combating BDS Act of 2017, which “contains problematic language that conflates Israel and the territories under its control,” according to J Street PAC, which endorsed her. Hawley applauded the president for relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Funding: Hawley received $5,000 from the Republican Jewish Coalition. McCaskill has received at least $24,300 from Soros and $98,700 from NORPAC.
Jewish Population: 76,300 (2.8 percent of state population)
Summary: Dean Heller, the Republican incumbent, is facing a tough fight from Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is leading by 1.7 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average.
Since elected in 2016, Rosen has touted her record on Israel as having sponsored the Defend Israel Act and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. However, she criticized the U.S. leaving the Iran deal. Heller, on the other hand, said the nuclear accord was “never good for America or our friends in the Middle East.”
Funding: Soros has given Rosen at least $5,400 this cycle, while Adelson has contributed an identical amount to Heller. Heller has also received $5,000 from RJC.
Jewish Population: 504,450 (5.7 percent of state population)
Summary: Pro-Israel Democrat Bob Menendez leads Republican nominee Bob Hugin by just 7.2 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average.
Menendez was one of the most outspoken Democratic senators against the Iran deal but opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from it. He supported the embassy move, which was also applauded by Hugin.
Funding: Menendez has received more than $500,000 from NORPAC. Hugin has received $5,000 from the RJC, spokesperson Neil Strauss confirmed to JNS.
Jewish Population: 294,925 (2.3 percent of state population)
Summary: Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey leads Republican congressman Lou Barletta by 16 percentage points in the RealClear Politics average.
While Casey has backed the Iran deal and condemned U.S. withdrawal from it, he favored moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He has also introduced legislation requiring the Department of Education to expand its definition of antisemitism to include support for the BDS movement and criticism of Israel that “demonizes,” “delegitimizes” or measures it through a “double standard.” Despite controversial ties to white nationalism, Barletta has supported Trump’s pro-Israel agenda, including calling for the State Department to allow “Jerusalem, Israel” to appear on U.S. passports.
Funding: NORPAC has contributed $51,640 to Casey, who has also received $10,800 from Soros. Barletta has gotten just $250 from RJC.
Jewish Population: 139,505 (0.5 percent of state population).
Summary: Incumbent Republican Ted Cruz—one of the most outspoken pro-Israel members of Congress, opposing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and vouching for the now-enacted Taylor Force Act to eliminate most U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority—is ahead by just 7 percentage points, according to the RealClear Politics average.
In a recent debate, Cruz accused Beto O’Rourke of siding with J Street, labeling the group “rabidly anti-Israel.” O’Rourke initially opposed U.S. funding for Iron Dome, though he supported it in later votes. He supported the Iran deal.
Funding: As of 2017, Cruz has received at least $2,700 from Adelson. He has also received $5,000 from the RJC and $64,050 from the nonpartisan pro-Israel organization NORPAC. O’Rourke has received $2,700 from Soros, who has surprisingly also gave $2,500 to Cruz this election cycle. O’Rourke has received $139,734 from J Street’s political action committee, which has also endorsed him.