Midterm elections: Jews facing off and other close races to watch

by | Oct 31, 2014 | Other News

by Ron Kampeas and Anthony Weiss

(JTA)—With midterm elections just around the corner, four races for the House of Representatives in particular are catching our Jewish eyes.

In California, succeeding Waxman:
Ted Lieu vs. Elan Carr

California’s 33rd Congressional District, stretching along the Pacific Coast and extending into the west side of Los Angeles, is one of the wealthiest districts in Congress and encompasses some of the most glamorous real estate in the country: Malibu, Beverly Hills, Bel Air. When incumbent liberal stalwart Rep. Henry Waxman announced his retirement, the 18-candidate primary for the seat turned into a national punchline, attracting a Kardashian-endorsed spiritual guru, an NPR host and a hard-partying former NBC executive.

But as befits the successor to Waxman, a legislative workhorse, the two candidates who emerged—State Sen. Ted Lieu, a 45-year-old Democrat, and Los Angeles deputy district attorney Elan Carr, a 46-year-old Republican—are decidedly low-key figures who share a number of similarities. Both are serving members of the military’s JAG corps (Lieu for the Air Force, Carr for the Army), both belonged to Jewish-founded fraternities (Lieu to Sigma Alpha Mu, Carr to Alpha Epsilon Pi), and both are pitching themselves as relative moderates—socially liberal, pro-Israel and business friendly.

Carr’s mother emigrated as a child from Iraq to Israel and subsequently to the United States. Carr himself grew up in New York speaking Hebrew and Arabic with his family, and he put the latter skill to use when he served in an anti-terrorism unit in Iraq. He argues that his Iraq experiences will serve him well as a “shaper of opinion” on foreign policy, and particularly on Iran and Israel—key issues in the seventh-most Jewish district in the country.

Carr’s interest in Israel, in particular, is something he shares with supporter Sheldon Adelson, whom the candidate describes as a “close personal friend.” Adelson has donated to the Carr campaign and hosted a fundraiser for him. Lieu is an immigrant himself, having arrived in the United States from Taiwan at age 3 with his parents. He has authored bills on everything from greenhouse gas reductions to indoor tanning salons, and he touts his legislative experience as one of his strengths.

Voters, Lieu says, are “very aware that they’re losing a phenomenal legislator” in Waxman, who has endorsed Lieu. “With me, you have a track record.”

Registered Democrats in the district substantially outnumber Republicans, 43.4 percent to 26.8 percent. Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of California State University, Los Angeles’ Pat Brown Institute—a nonpartisan public policy institute—says that Carr has the right profile for a Republican to be successful here, but given the partisan tilt of the district, he is “a substantial underdog.”

—Anthony Weiss