The Republican Jewish Woman running for Congress
Meet Michigan’s Lena Epstein
Jewish, Female Congressional Candidate Who Is Unabashedly Pro-Trump
Amid a season of history-making candidates that have emerged victorious in primaries across the country in recent weeks, Lena Epstein, if elected in November, would be the only Jewish Republican woman in Congress.
Epstein is a third-generation owner and general manager of Vesco Oil Corporation, the business her grandfather Eugene Epstein founded in Southfield, Michigan in 1947. Epstein is vying for the seat of retiring Congressman David Trott, a two-term Republican, who handily won his reelection bid in 2016. President Donald Trump carried the 11th Congressional District in the last presidential race and RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel lives in the district. Nonetheless, the seat is rated as a “toss-up” by Cook Political Report.
“I believe that I am being called to be the champion of the relationship between the United States and Israel once elected to the United States Congress,” Epstein declared in a phone interview with Jewish Insider when asked why she’s leaving the business world. “I am an unapologetic Republican Jewish woman who loves Israel, who loves the Jewish community, who is a business owner and a job creator.”
Epstein served as the Trump campaign co-chair in Michigan, a state Trump carried with just over 10,000 votes in the 2016 presidential election. In an op-ed published in October of 2016, identifying herself as a Jew, a woman and a millennial, Epstein defended Trump’s “less than eloquent soundbites” on the campaign trail. “Didn’t our parents all teach us that actions speak louder than words?” she asked rhetorically. Trump recently returned the favor with a tweet of support a day after she won the Republican primary.
Similar to Trump, Epstein has had her own share of Twitter controversy. Last year, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon circulated screenshots showing Epstein’s Twitter account to have “liked” posts by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke that praised the Charlottesville white-nationalist rally. Epstein claimed her account had been hacked and demanded an apology from Dillon.
“I’m a very unusual candidate. I’m a very rare candidate,” Epstein exclaimed repeatedly during the interview. “I’m a very, very unusual candidate in an exciting way.”
Following another Trump precedent, Epstein is now publicly fundraising for her campaign after mostly self-funding her primary race. “Do you know that I spent a million dollars of my own money in the primary?”, Epstein revealed.
Asked if she would like Trump to campaign for her, Epstein sidestepped the question. “What the President needs to do, the President needs to do. He knows that. And these congressional races matter. I’m not making any statements on behalf of the President, whether he’ll come to visit or not. All I know is that he supports me, I support him. He’s running the United States of America, I am in an 11th District congressional race that’s very exciting, and I’m using that same beautiful focus on what’s necessary to win this race.”
In June, Epstein made headlines after a Michigan country club canceled a scheduled fundraiser to be held for her at the club. As a fourth generation member of the Franklin Hills Country Club, Epstein says she was deeply hurt by the decision. “They discriminated against me because of my political views.” Epstein says she was also offended by the timing of the decision. According to Epstein’s account, she was informed about the cancelation by phone on Friday night.
“The club’s board of directors’ representative was screaming into the phone at me and he said, ‘Your event has been canceled. It is because of your political views.’ And I said, ‘It’s Shabbos. Is there an emergency?’ He said, ‘What does Shabbos have to do with this?’ And I said, ‘It’s Shabbos. I’m holding my baby daughter in my arms. I just finished a Shabbos dinner with my family. I observe the Sabbath, and I’m very uncomfortable that we’re on the phone right now, and I would ask that you treat me with kindness and respect.’ And he just repeated, ‘Your event has been canceled, and it’s been canceled because of your political views.’ He would not allow my campaign manager to join us on the call.”
Epstein said that she intends to visit the club again in the near future. “I have been advised by the people that love me most to just keep focusing on winning the district. But let me also tell you that of course my family and I will go by the club at some point. I can’t tell you what it will be like, but I will tell you this: there is so much love for me and our family at Franklin Hills, okay? It is a great club, but I’m not going to make the next 90 days about Franklin Hills. I’m going to make the next 90 days about winning Michigan’s 11th District.”
Epstein will face the Democratic Party’s nominee Haley Stevens in the fall.
“I am a Republican Jewish woman who will be the champion of the relationship between the United States and Israel. My Jewish roots are everything in me, and I am prepared to serve,” Epstein concluded. “Even though I am a young woman, at the age of 37, I have the qualifications and the credentials as a business owner, a business leader, and a job creator from the automotive industry in southeast Michigan, and I am prepared to serve in the United States Congress.”