Record & Rhetoric

RJC chairman backs Senate candidate despite past comments on ‘Jewish lobby’

Jim Mone/AP

Republican and former U.S. Congressman Jason Lewis announces his run for a Senate seat in Minnesota Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 at the State Fair in Falcon Heights, Minn.

Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, who currently serves as national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, will host a fundraiser next week in support of Minnesota GOP Senate candidate Jason Lewis. Lewis alleged in 2013 that members of the Republican Party were “dual citizens” of the U.S. and Israel and that the party was being controlled by the “Jewish lobby.” The fundraiser, first reported by Politico, will be headlined by Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. 

Details: Lewis, a one-term Congressman (2017-2019) who has the backing of President Donald Trump, is one of five candidates running in Minnesota’s GOP primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Tina Smith this November. The seat is ranked “likely D” by the Cook Political Report. Coleman represented the seat between 2003-2009 and narrowly lost to comedian Al Franken, who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Pushing back: In a Twitter exchange over the weekend, Coleman criticized CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, who reported the anti-Israel comments made by Lewis as a radio broadcaster as “nothing more than a hatchet man for a biased news outlet” for highlighting the remarks while ignoring that in Congress, “Lewis was a staunch and consistent champion of Israel and his stellar record reflected that.” 

Record vs. rhetoric: In an email to Jewish Insider, Coleman defended his endorsement of Lewis. “It’s a little silly to ask how can you support someone who strongly supported the U.S.-Israel relationship with deeds rather than talk radio rhetoric,” Coleman explained. “Having had many conversations with Lewis during his tenure in Congress I was fully satisfied that his commitment to Israel’s security was real and his understanding of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship was solid.” 

Disappointed: Rob Barrett, a musician and a songwriter who is running against Lewis in the GOP primary slated for August 11, said in an interview with Jewish Insider last month that he composed a jingle for Coleman’s campaign in 2002. On Sunday, Barrett told JI he was “disappointed” in Coleman’s decision to back Lewis not only “because I worked to get him elected, but also because the math doesn’t work for Jason Lewis.” Barrett said he asked for a meeting with Coleman to present his vision. 

The final rose: Coleman told JI that he picked Lewis over the other candidates because the former Rep. “strongly supported me in all elections” and “he has the best shot at beating Tina Smith by both having been in the arena and having a superb grasp of the issues.” The Republican Jewish Coalition itself does not endorse in party primaries. 

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