Republicans Sweep US House

Published: November 3rd 2010
in News » World

Pic: illustration

The Republican Party swung the US House of Representatives away from the Democrats with a historic takeover of at least 60 seats in last night’s midterm elections. The GOP also did damage to the Democratic Senate majority, including the suprise knocking off of civil libertarian and Iraq War opponent, longtime Senator Russ Feingold). After the night was through, Republicans reduced the Democrats to just 51 seats in the chamber.


The historic gain for the Republicans, the largest sweep in the House since 1948, will see minority whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) become the new house majority leader and the highest ranked Jewish politician ever to serve in Congress.


"We are excited for Eric Cantor to become the next House Majority leader," Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told JTA.


However, Cantor is that rare Jewish politician who is also a Republican. The majority of Jews have historically been Democrats and remain so today.


All told, the GOP defeated five Jewish incumbents, with one Jewish incumbent (Arlen Spector D-PA) going down to defeat in the primaries. 


The total number of Jews in the next session of Congress will be reduced from 45 to 40 (28 in the House and 12 in the Senate). Still not bad for a people who represent only about two per cent of the US population.


In terms of close races, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet pulled ahead of his opponent in a tight race and looks to be headed toward reelection. Bennet does not list a religion but explains that his Jewish mother is a Holocaust Survivor.


Veteran California Senator Barbara Boxer kept her seat. The three-term senator staved off former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina 52 to 42 per cent. Fiorina reportedly dished out more than $100 million of her own money in a failed attempt to wrestle the seat away from Boxer, who remains popular with California liberals for her progressive views.


Democrat Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) beat Republican Linda McMahon, the former CEO of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, to become Connecticut’s junior senator.


The defeat of five Jewish incumbents means that Jewish groups,  usually liberal and with strong ties to Democrats, are worried that after courting ties to Democratic politicians – for instance John Spratt of the Budget Committee was instrumental in helping Jewish social service lobbyists – they will be lost in the wilderness in the new Republican era.


 Wisconsin senator Feingold, who had served since 1993, had been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s ramping up of government interrogation powers in the aftermath of September 11th, and was one of the surprise defeats of the evening. In his concessions speech, Feingold quoted fellow Jew, Bob Dylan, who grew up in nearby Minnesota, one state over from Wisconsin. “But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free, I’ve got nothing but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me.” Feingold told his supporters, “On to the next fight!”


There were also some state-level wins for Jews. Republican Iraq war veteran and Orthodox Jew  Josh Mandel won locally Ohio (state treasurer). Steve Grossman, ex-AIPAC president and Democratic chairman, won in Massachusetts. Sam Olens, will become Georgia’s Republican Attorney General.

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