Iran Deal, J Street Activism Prompts Joel Rubin to Pursue Congressional Bid

A former State Department official and a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal has joined the crowded field of candidates seeking to replace outgoing Congressman Chris Van Hollen in 2016.

Joel Rubin, 44, announced on Monday that he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, competing with another six candidates who’ve already announced their campaign.

In a conference call with reporters, announcing his run, on Monday he said that the Iran deal will be a centerpiece argument of his campaign.

Rubin recently left the Obama administration where he served as the U.S. State Department’s chief liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the founding political and government affairs director at J Street, and previously a congressional aid on foreign policy to Senators Tom Harkin and Frank Lautenberg.

In his capacity as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, Rubin was tasked with building congressional support in advance of the final weeks of the p5+1 talks in Vienna.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Rubin said he brings to the race the “same kind of activism and energy, passion and progressive ideas” that he had developed while working with the pro-peace liberal Jewish group, and with the Obama administration.

Rubin boasted his pro-Israel bona fides while holding J Street’ out of the mainstream positions on the Middle East. “We need to do everything we can to help Israel defend itself. I have family in Israel; I understand what this means. I’ve lived there for a year of my life, I’ve led a high school teen tour there, I’ve been there about ten times. I have traveled in the West Bank. I’m telling you I feel it in my kishkes,” he said.

Commenting on the Iran deal, Rubin asserted that “Maryland constituents are a progressive group and understand that we need to make sure that we’re protecting our security and the security of the State of Israel. That’s why they supported this deal, because this deal does that, and it does it without getting into the other options of dealing with Iran, which is military action.”

Rubin, who won’t be in Congress before January 2017, if elected, said he’s “deeply concerned” that efforts are not being made to support the deal’s effective implementation. “As a candidate running for Congress, I’ll tell you, to me, I am deeply concerned about congressional attempts to undermine the deal at its roots,” he said in the phone interview. “We need to make sure that nothing is done to prevent this agreement from having the full chance to demonstrate its value. If moves are made to cut funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, for example, to go and do their work, that will harm our ability to verify this deal, and that should be blocked. That’s the kind of stuff that I’ll be watching closely if I’m a member of Congress.”

The progressive congressional hopeful also rejected recent proposals of defunding the Palestinian Authority in the wake of recent terror attacks in the heart of Jerusalem and the West Bank. “I think if you would have asked the Israeli security establishment if it would be helpful to their security for the Americans to defund the Palestinian Authority they would make a resounding ‘no’ as their response, and I would stand with that,” said Rubin. “I do not believe that we should be playing politics with Israeli security, and anybody who advocates cutting funding to the Palestinian Authority is doing that.”

The Democratic primary for the congressional seat will take place on April 26, 2016. Other candidates running include State Senator Jamie Raskin, who is also Jewish, former Obama aide William Jawando, David Anderson, a Nonprofit executive, as well as state delegates Kumar Barve, Ana Sol Gutierrez and Kathleen Matthews.

All of the candidates except Anderson expressed their support for the Iran deal. Anderson, vice president of the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, said he opposed the deal, and if elected he would focus on opportunities to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner, according to The Washington Post.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.