The Former AIPAC, RJC Staffer Running for Congress
WASHINGTON – While the 2018 Congressional elections are more than 18 months away, Republican Jeremy Wynes launched his campaign this week to represent Illinois’ 10th District. A father of three, the Depaul Law School graduate previously worked at AIPAC and then switched to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in 2015 due to his ideological shift towards the GOP party, especially on areas of National Security. With the Chicagoland district swinging back and forth from the Democrats to Republicans each election cycle over the last decade, Wynes makes sure to emphasize his moderate views on social issues. In contrast to others in the GOP, Wynes is pro-choice and in favor of LGBT rights.
Claiming that voters are tired of partisanship, Wynes stresses his background at AIPAC where he worked with both Democrats and Republicans. “I have close to a decade of focusing in a bipartisan way on issues in Congress that are hugely important and we can only solve when both parties are on board,” he told Jewish Insider in a phone interview. While Wynes repeatedly stressed his pro-Israel credentials, it’s worth noting he’s running against a sitting Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). The Democratic lawmaker opposed the Iranian nuclear deal and voted with Republicans for House Resolution 11, which blasted the United Nations Security Council for a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in December.
“I don’t doubt that Congressman Schneider is a pro-Israel Congressman, but it’s also about to being a leader,” Wynes explained. “Let’s not forget that for a month that both Democrats and Republicans were in the trenches fighting that (nuclear) deal; when Members of Congress were making that decision whether they were going to be a no or a yes, we heard radio silence from Schneider on the issue.”
Wynes offered a more nuanced perspective on President Trump’s performance during his early months. He appreciates the Commander in Chief’s hardened policy against Tehran, but called the travel ban “misguided” and disagreed with the decision to withdraw from the TPP deal. “I don’t think firing the FBI Director was necessary at this point,” he added.
With Trump heading to Israel and the West Bank later this month to attempt to secure the “ultimate deal” between the parties, Wynes pushed for caution. “The Palestinian leadership has not acted as if they actually do want a peace deal… The ground-up approach is the only reliable, viable solution to the issue rather than a top-down diplomatic push.”
“We entrusted Jeremy with the responsibility of opening our Midwest office and building the RJC from scratch in the region. He did a superb job,” explained Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the RJC. “Over the years it was obvious to everyone he came in contact with that not only does he have a deep understanding of the policy issues facing the Jewish community but also a true passion for the cause. He will bring those same skills to serving the people of Illinois 10th congressional district.”
Accusing Schneider of nearly automatic opposition of the President and the Republican agenda, Wynes noting the highly competitive district and asked, “The question is whose message will appeal to the independent voters of this district who don’t care which party the Member of Congress aligns himself with? They care about what he says and his ability to be a leader.”
Jewish Insider: What makes your campaign unique when numerous Members of Congress have called for bringing “change” to Washington?
Jeremy Wynes: “I’ve actually done it and worked for close to 10 years on issues that are largely bipartisan when it comes to how Congress focuses on them. Part of what I did, both here in the 10th district and across the Midwest: travel around, advising and briefing Members of Congress and candidates on both sides of the aisle on these critical issues where too often the two sides can’t get together and work on this. So, I think that I have close to a decade of focusing in a bipartisan way on issues in Congress that are hugely important and we can only solve when both parties are on board.”
JI: You mention in your campaign video that you are “socially moderate.” Can you please list a few examples?
Wynes: “I’m pro-choice and support a woman’s right to choose. I am pro-LGBTQ rights and support gay marriage. Those are two big social issues where I think I show independence from national party leadership. Hopefully, over time there will be more and more Republicans that are willing to have this vision as well.”
JI: With President Trump heading to Israel and the West Bank later this month, what are the concrete steps you’d recommend that he takes?
Wynes: “The idea that it needs to be as a result of American pressure needs to be moved off of the table. Any deal will have to have both parties buy in. At this point of time, I’ve seen no signs that anything has changed with one-half of that calculus that the Palestinian leadership has not acted as if they actually do want a peace deal. They have been offered it multiple times over 50 years and they have always said nothing but no. Our position needs to be no preconditions and it has to come from both parties and can’t come through these big diplomatic pushes. It’s got to be built from the bottom-up and until we have a partner on the Palestinian side who is actually committed not just through their words not just committed when speaking with American diplomats, but through their actions on the ground. The ground-up approach is the only reliable, viable solution to the issue rather than a top-down diplomatic push.”
JI: Did you support the move to fire FBI Director James Comey?
Wynes: “I’ll have to take a look at this a little bit more, but I don’t think that this was the right road to go down here. We need to pursue a more independent commission and figure out what exactly Russia did during the election. There is no doubt that they intervened. What effect that continues to have? I don’t think firing the FBI Director was necessary at this point. It’s perfectly fair to criticize, both sides have. Certain things he said and did during the course of the election cycle perhaps was intervening too much in the election process.”
JI: How would you grade President Trump’s first months in office?
Wynes: “We’re four months in here. I don’t think it would be appropriate or fair to be giving any grades at this point a few months into his presidency. In my view, this is a big reason why I’m running and it’s different from the current Congressman of this district is that it’s not about automatic opposition or automatic support: It’s about calling balls and strikes. That is the position of any independent Member of Congress should take. There are things that the Trump administration has done in the first few months that I would not have done that are going down the wrong road. And there are things that he has done such as taking a tougher approach when it comes to Iran that I liked.”
JI: Where do you specifically disagree with President Trump?
Wynes: “I have a different position on trade and immigration than the current administration. I would not have voted to end the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). I thought the travel ban was misguided. I’m hopeful on the tax overhaul, a fairer and more effective tax code. The job of a Member of Congress is not just to be partisan and say yes or no based on which parties is pushing the issue, it’s actually to say yes when it’s the right thing to do and say no when it’s the wrong thing to do and represent your district.”
JI: Congressman Schneider opposed the Iran Deal and joined with Republicans to condemn the UN Security Council vote in December against Israel. What makes you different on Israel?
Wynes: “It’s not just about your vote. The 10th district is very unique in that there are a large number of constituents here are very passionate about this issue and the US-Israel relationship. I don’t doubt that Congressman Schneider is a pro-Israel Congressman. I wouldn’t suggest that he isn’t, but it’s also about to being a leader and when it comes to the Iran deal, what we have seen over the past few years both when he was in Washington and a candidate is an example of him being unwilling to break from his party in a real meaningful way. Yes, I give him credit for eventually coming out against the Iran deal. Let’s not forget that for a month that both Democrats and Republicans were in the trenches fighting that deal when Members of Congress were making that decision whether they were going to be a no or a yes, we heard radio silence from Schneider on the issue. Even though he wrote an op-ed a month earlier that the deal needed to meet these conditions or it would fall short in his mind. Anybody who has served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee knew that the deal fell considerably short in all of the preconditions that he said had to include so for a month I would question if you are going to be a leader on this issue: where was Congressman Schneider or then-candidate Schneider when those of us were in the trenches fighting? Is it leadership to wait a month until the party leadership gives you the ok because you are worried about a partisan primary? I don’t think that’s the leadership this district demands when it comes to this issue.”
JI: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Wynes: “The biggest thing people are wondering is what has Washington accomplished for them? We’ve seen the fighting and partisanship but we are not seeing a lot getting done. A lot of folks are wondering that Congressman Schneider has moved in and out of Washington over the last six years, they are wondering what is he accomplishing for this district and why is he different from any other Democratic candidate, what makes him an independent voice? I want to talk about new ideas and big ideas going forward and how can you tackle the short and long term problems. It’s early, the campaign just started yesterday but I am excited about the direction it’s going to go.”
JI: Do you believe that you have the fundraising and managerial skills necessary to win a complex race for Congress?
Wynes: “I do and I would not be running if I didn’t think that. My interest is in representing this district. This district has always been incredibly competitive for multiple election cycles and will remain the same. It will be a close race. I have no doubt that I will have the resources to run mine. The question is whose message will appeal to the independent voters of this district who don’t care which party the Member of Congress aligns himself with. They care about what he says and his ability to be a leader.”